Thursday, September 27, 2007

Verizon e mobile!

I was all prepared to write a long and interesting post on Verizon's decision to block text messages from Naral Pro-Choice America, but then Verizon changed its mind:

Saying it had the right to block "controversial or unsavory" text messages, Verizon Wireless last week rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon's mobile network available for a text-message program.

But the company reversed course this morning, saying it had made a mistake.

"The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident," Jeffrey Nelson, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

"It was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy," Mr. Nelson said. "That policy, developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters adequately protected customers from unwanted messages, was designed to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children."

Mr. Nelson noted that text messaging is "harnessed by organizations and individuals communicating their diverse opinions about issues and topics" and said Verizon has "great respect for this free flow of ideas."

The other leading wireless carriers had accepted the Naral program, which allows people to sign up for text messages from Naral by sending a message to a five-digit number known as a short code.

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.

I still think that the whole debacle gave as a foretaste about what might happen when carriers get the right to determine the content they carry.