AT&T and Content Control

02 October 2007

In any discussion of network neutrality, it's pretty much inevitable that the conversation will shift towards whether or not telecommunications companies would actually use their powers to censor content and impede the free exchange of ideas.

Earlier this year, AT&T used their position to censor remarks by the band Pearl Jam from its Lollapalooza webcast, when lead singer Eddie Vedder made remarks critical of the President.

Just last month, Verizon 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. They eventually backed off, claiming to have changed their policy. However, Verizon has refused to disclose what its new policy involves.

AT&T has an interesting policy of its own. According to the AT&T terms of service, the company can simply terminate the service of anyone who criticizes them. The policy states that AT&T reserves the right to end service (without notice) and delete all of your files (including emails) “for conduct that AT&T believes . . . tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.” Verizon's policy similarly provides that "You may NOT use the Service . . . to damage the name or reputation of Verizon, its parent, affiliates and subsidiaries, or any third parties."

When it comes to network neutrality and content control, I have trouble trusting that these telecommunications companies will actually restrain themselves and allow customers to speak freely.

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