Verizon Reverses Policy On Pro-Choice Text Messages

Verizon recently rejected a request from Naral Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s network available for their opt-in text message program.

Verizon had initially claimed that the text messages violated their policy against messages that were “highly controversial.” From the WSJ:

In a statement Thursday, Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said, “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.”

He added, “Upon learning about this situation, senior Verizon Wireless executives immediately reviewed the decision and determined it was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy.”

Verizon Wireless said Thursday its policy had been developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters “adequately protected customers from unwanted messages.” It was designed, the company said, to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children.

Naturally, we’d try to start a text message consumer alert program on Verizon ourselves in order to make sure they’re really being honest about their new “loose” policy, but we imagine they’d just text back “LOL, no.”

Verizon Wireless Ends Ban On Abortion-Rights Group [WSJ]
(Photo:meghannmarco)

Comments

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  1. Geekybiker says:

    Just wait untill this starts being an “opt out” program instead. Advertising text messages of any kind FTL.

  2. jaredgood1 says:

    Well, judging from that picture, it looks like the tinfoil hat brigade doesn’t like Verizon.

    Verizon just got a customer for life.

  3. @jaredgood1: And they just lost one for Life.

    Back atcha smarty.

  4. mir777 says:

    I am honestly, genuinely surprised about the reversal. Perhaps not the reversal, but the speed in which it was accomplished. I haven’t even signed all my online petitions yet.

  5. ViperBorg says:

    Screw Verizon.

  6. Trai_Dep says:

    The fact that this ever even became an issue to begin with argues STRONGLY in favor of net neutrality. I’d hate to see any side given a leg up by the telecoms.

  7. bohemian says:

    I’m sure the piles of angry emails they got today had something to do with it. There were a couple of entities letting people know about this including Naral (they sent out an email).

    Net Neutrality please.

  8. JustAGuy2 says:

    @trai_dep:

    I don’t think this is a matter of a “leg up,” even before they reversed the decision, they made it clear that they wouldn’t have accepted blast texting by an anti-abortion group either.

  9. Bay State Darren says:

    I’m glad they reversed their decision, but I find even this idea that they would want to restrict free speech across a major communications network of millions of people frightening. The First Amendment may be specific to government censorship (Congress shall make no law…), but any entity wanting to use their market power to tell people what they cannot say certainly goes against moral principle, regardless of legality. I hope the initial policy is not an indicator of future industry ethics and actions as we growing increasingly dependent on telecom, especially if that industry continues to consolidate and limit the consumer’s options. (Future CSR: “For just $179.99/month extra, you can get our upgrade to Freedom of Expression!)

  10. hypnotik_jello says:

    @JustAGuy2: Well, no. It’s kind of irrelevant that they wouldn’t have accepted bulk messages from an anti-abortion group. The fact that they pick and choose which types of content to censor is the issue. Doesn’t matter if it they chose to censor both pro-nra or anti-gun messages. That’s still selective censorship. It’s especially problematic with telcos, wireless carriers, especially since they are using spectrum and subscriber access in an exclusive manner. If verizon chose not to carry those messages, they would wholy be unavailable to their subscribers unless those subscribers switched to other carriers. How feasible or practical would that be?

    What about if Carrier A blocked abortion messages, but Carrier B blocked pro/anti-gun control messages? Those subscribers would need to have phones on both networks to receive those messages? That doesn’t make much sense either.

    It’s a gray area for sure, as telcos might be classified as public utilities to a certain extent.

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    @JustAGuy2: I don’t want quasi-monopolies making ANY choice on which political groups are or are not discriminated against. Sort of a strict constructionist on that point. Net Neutrality Now.

  12. Verizon’s statement said the policy was originally put in place to block spam texts and protect consumers from racking up text-receiving charges from back before there were spam filters and the like.

  13. jaredgood1 says:

    @AngrySicilian: And together, we make perfect harmony. Ahhhh…