Thursday, September 27, 2007

Verizon Wireless Content Discrimination

Verizon Wireless has refused to allow an abortion-rights group to send pro-choice text messages to its members, reports the New York Times. Other carriers have permitted the group, Naral, to do so. Verizon says its position is viewpoint-neutral, and applies to all "controversial or unsavory" texts, but texting appears to be more widely used by liberal groups than conservatives.

Naral may have little recourse legally. There's a law prohibiting common carriers like telcos from discriminating based on content, but that law applies only to voice communication. Ironically, it was adopted over 100 years ago, to prevent Western Union from discriminating in transmission of telegrams, which of course were a form of text messages.

Little help will come from the First Amendment - it applies only to government action, not corporate. Let's hope public pressure makes a difference - and that Congress steps in to amend the law. Shame on Verizon Wireless.

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