Verizon and Content Control

27 September 2007

Whenever the issue of network neutrality comes up, the discussion always seems to shift towards whether or not providers would exercise their powers to censor content and step on the free exchange of ideas. According to Lawrence Lessig, who testified before Congress on the issue in 2002:

After my testimony, an economist/lobbyist approached me and asked: "Do you really believe there is any threat that broadband network owners would discriminate in either the content they carry, or the applications they allow? After all, first, none will have enough market power to be able to do this without consequence, and second, even if they did have enough market power, what possible incentive would they have?"

Well, it turns out that AT&T censored certain remarks by the band Pearl Jam from its Lollapalooza webcast earlier this year, when lead singer Eddie Vedder made remarks about how he dislikes the current President.

Now, it turns out that Verizon has attempted to block "controversial and unsavory" NARAL text messages ("End Bush’s global gag rule against birth control for world’s poorest women! Call Congress. (202) 224-3121. Thnx! Naral Text4Choice") from its service. Thankfully, Verizon has backed off, like the economist/lobbyist from Lessig's testimony predicted. However, there won't always be a large public outcry over these attempts at content control, nor will they even necessarily be noticed.

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