Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Verizon Censors Abortion Rights Group

Anyone who needs a living example of why net neutrality is important only need look at what happened to NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The New York Times reports:

Saying it had the right to block “controversial or unsavory” text messages, Verizon Wireless has rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program. [...]

Text messaging is a growing political tool in the United States and a dominant one abroad, and such sign-up programs are used by many political candidates and advocacy groups to send updates to supporters.

But legal experts said private companies like Verizon probably have the legal right to decide which messages to carry. The laws that forbid common carriers from interfering with voice transmissions on ordinary phone lines do not apply to text messages. [...]

In turning down the program, Verizon, one of the nation’s two largest wireless carriers, told Naral that it does not accept programs from any group “that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.” Naral provided copies of its communications with Verizon to The New York Times.

So what was the "unsavory" message NARAL wanted to send? An appeal to their activists to contact Congress and urge an end to Bush's global gag rule against birth control for the world’s poorest women. Keep in mind the message was going to people who SIGNED UP TO RECEIVE TEXT MESSAGES.

“No company should be allowed to censor the message we want to send to people who have asked us to send it to them,” Ms. Keenan said. “Regardless of people’s political views, Verizon customers should decide what action to take on their phones. Why does Verizon get to make that choice for them?” [...]

Messages urging political action are generally thought to be at the heart of what the First Amendment protects. But the First Amendment limits government power, not that of private companies like Verizon.

Contact Verizon and urge them to stop censoring advocacy messages. Then contact your members of Congress and urge them to support net neutrality!

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