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Verizon accused of censoring text messages

Verizon, the US cellco, has hit the headlines in North America after it apparently eavesdropped on, and then blocked, a text message sent by and on behalf of an abortion rights advocacy group.

I must confess to classing abortion rights people right up there alongside animal rights activists in terms of extremism, but that's because of an awful experience with the abortion rights people when I worked in the NHS.

But despite this, I'm shocked at Verizon' s behaviour (opens in new tab)over the text messages sent by Naral Pro-Choice America, after a Verizon manager decided he didn't like the content of some of the messages.

According to newswire reports (opens in new tab), the text message was sent to members of the group as a "call to action" and asked them to be aware that abortion rights enshrined in US law are coming under attack.

Some time before it censored the group's text message(s), Verizon introduced a new condition of service that gave the cellco the right to ban "controversial or unsavoury" text messages.

As one newswire editorial put it - this is the sort of weasel words that one would normally expect from a mouthpiece of the military junta in Burma.

In the UK, Verizon's actions would have been a clear breach of the Interception of Communications Act (opens in new tab). In the US, it theoretically drives a steamroller through the US constitution and civil rights by denying the group its "inalienable" rights to free speech.

I say theoretically, as some experts say that Verizon was within its contractual rights as US legislation relating to voice communications do not apply to text messages.

Experts are now asking how many other text messages that Verizon has censored and whether any other cellcos in the US are adopting similar tactics.

A digital can of worms indeed. Read more on the subject here... (opens in new tab)