Verizon refuses to carry activist text messages

Verizon has told NARAL that it will not allow the reproductive rights organization to use its wireless network to distribute it.

Tech Culture

This news may hit CNET tomorrow as a New York Times cross-post, but I haven't seen anything about it yet so I wanted to be sure it was reported here.

According to the Times, Verizon, one of the nation's two largest wireless carriers, told NARALthat it would not allow the reproductive rights organization to send text messagesthrough a program using Verizon's mobile network, on the grounds that Verizon has the right to block "controversial or unsavory" text messages.

I am no expert on Net Neutrality, but the idea that a telecom carrier will refuse to carry messages based on content is incredibly scary. Could they decide to broadcast messages sent by the Democratic party, but not Republicans? Christian messages but not Jewish? Everybody has a point of view that could be viewed as "controversial or unsavory" to someone else. I thought that controversy and open dialogue were integral parts of our democratic process. Idealism dies hard even in this day and age.

Apparently the First Amendment does not in itself prohibit such censorship, but we should not accept such an action, which has been likened to the mass censorship of political speech by the Chinese government, no matter whether the carrier agrees with the content or not.

Laws that forbid common carriers from interfering with voice transmission on phone lines do not apply to text messages. It's time to change that law to protect free speech, no matter how it is communicated.

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