Verizon Blocks Abortion Rights Group Messages

naral.jpgVerizon Wireless has rejected a request from NARAL Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program, according to The New York Times.

The program lets people sign up for NARAL text messages by sending a short text to a 5-digit number, known as a short code. The other leading wireless carriers have already accepted the program, according to the report. Verizon said in response to the controversy that “it had the right to block ‘controversial or unsavory’ text messages.”

Legal experts feel that Verizon had the right to block the messages since it’s a privately held company, and that the laws that govern common carriers about free speech probably don’t apply here. “This is right at the heart of the [net neutrality] problem,” said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan law school, in the article. “The fact that wireless companies can choose to discriminate is very troubling.”

Here’s the key quote from the Times story: “Messages urging political action are generally thought to be at the heart of what the First Amendment protects. But the First Amendment limits government power, not that of private companies like Verizon. In rejecting the NARAL program, Verizon appeared to be acting against its economic interests. It would have received a small fee to set up the program and additional fees for messages sent and received.”

There’s too much important material to cover here, so check out the NYT story link below for more details.

Verizon Rejects Messages of Abortion Rights Group [NYT]