September 26, 2007

Verizon Wireless Blocks Pro-Choice Text Messages

Update (September 27, 2007): As predicted below, Verizon Wireless has now reversed themselves and lifted the ban, indicating that it ... was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy. I just love the word "dusty" applied to censorship controversies.

Greetings. I did a double take when I read the New York Times headline noting that Verizon Wireless had refused to allow a text messaging campaign from a pro-choice group. You can read the details for yourself.

Now, you may already know that I'm not a fan of third-party text messaging services, especially when fees are involved -- there's tremendous fraud potential in many cases, but the proposed messages being blocked by Verizon don't seem to fall into the abuse category.

Verizon's reaction does however make one wonder what country we're talking about. Usually if you want to find text messaging content control, you have to head over to someplace like China, not Basking Ridge, New Jersey, where Verizon Wireless apparently houses their content control star chamber.

With all of the utter garbage in unsolicited text messages flowing through the wireless carriers' networks -- including Verizon's -- for Verizon to take this stance sets the imagination into high gear. Is some highly placed mole inside the company setting out to make a case for legislated network neutrality -- against Verizon's stated corporate position on the topic? Or are we (much more likely, admittedly) simply dealing with corporate hubris run amok?

For after all, while we usually speak of net neutrality in terms of bits and bandwidth, other small matters like freedom of speech can also play into the mix.

Odds are that the negative publicity about this story will ultimately trigger a reversal on Verizon's part. But that's not the point. That Verizon Wireless even had the gall to take such a censorship stance on an important public policy issue in the first place speaks volumes.

Even Verizon's funky old "not the same old line" ancestor General Telephone couldn't have dreamt of such power over what people say to each other.


Posted by Lauren at September 26, 2007 05:45 PM | Permalink
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