Porn on a plane: It's all or nothing

You can't access porn online while on a plane, but you can read a Playboy and watch a pornographic DVD? Don Reisinger thinks something is wrong with the airlines.

The debate over viewing porn on your laptop while connected to an airline's Wi-Fi service in the air has been raging over the past few days.

Although I briefly discussed this on one of my latest Digital Home Video shows, the general lack of logic from most who have opined about this move has caused me to address it again.

And as I read over more documents about the possible porn ban, I'm starting to get an even clearer view of what's really going on here: the flight attendants on each plane are unsure of how to address porn streaming to a traveler's computer. And in an attempt to mitigate some of the obvious sexual harassment lawsuits that airlines would undoubtedly face, the airlines may make the decision that it would be easier to stop people from accessing porn than allowing it.

The argument makes sense and it captures the reality of the situation. It's not that the airlines are upset that people will be looking at porn while they access the service or even that they are worried about others being offended (although that is probably a concern). More than anything, the airlines are worried that if they allow porn to be accessed on their services, they will be subject to sexual harassment lawsuits and other issues that arise thanks to their customers.

But then again, maybe that argument doesn't hold as much water as we want to believe. Right now, you can buy a Playboy magazine at any newsstand at practically any airport in the U.S., bring it on the plane, and flip through it to your heart's content. You can even bring other adult materials with you, too. And considering that you can play DVDs on your laptops and that porn movies are readily available on DVD, what will stop you from watching those on the plane as well?

I understand the argument that says allowing porn over an airline's Wi-Fi service is too much of a liability, but I simply don't think these companies can have it both ways. Either every airline forbids the viewing and reading of pornographic material regardless of its format, or it allows it all.

Of course, the argument takes on more levels than simply saying "allow or ban pornography--you decide." If the airlines allow Playboy on planes, does that mean they should allow you to view still pornographic images online while in-flight? And if they let you watch a pornographic DVD in-flight, does that mean you can watch pornographic videos online while in-flight?

The airlines started out saying that full online access would be available, but then suddenly realized that porn is available on the Web and that they may have to lock it down? Where does it end?

Can hackers hack while using the Gogo service? I doubt it. Can you download illegal files from BitTorrent? I'll bet that's frowned upon.

I simply don't understand why the airlines are acting so shocked by the fact that someone will access porn in-flight. The people running the airlines have been online before, and they certainly know what's out there. Did they suddenly expect people to stop acting like idiots just because they're on a flight?

I'm a firm believer that porn shouldn't be viewed on a plane. There are kids around, and others will feel uncomfortable if the person sitting next to them is flipping through porn mags. Evidently the airlines don't agree.

Right now, airlines are fine with you reading a Playboy on the plane as long as no one complains, and few flight attendants will spend enough time looking over your shoulder to see whether you're watching a porn flick on your laptop. So if they let you do both--consciously or not--why not let you view porn online while in-flight too?

The airlines can't have it both ways. They either need to ban all pornographic material in-flight, regardless of the source, or allow every bit of it. And considering the latter would probably create a hostile work environment and lead to countless lawsuits, it's a safe bet for these companies to stop all pornographic material from even making it into the plane's cabin.

No one ever said bringing the Web to planes would be easy. But the firestorm surrounding the porn ban on planes has me wondering what these companies were thinking before they launched the service. Didn't they know that this would be a problem from the start?

Welcome to the Internet, folks. What took you so long to get here?

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.

 

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