AT&T Censors Pearl Jam

Last weekend, AT&T delivered a live stream of Lollapalooza performances on its Blue Room website. Unfortunately, during Pearl Jam’s set, they muted some politically charged lyrics. Pearl Jam is outraged, and AT&T is backtracking and blaming the company they hired to provide the feed:

“[The muting was] a major mistake by a webcast vendor and completely contrary to our policy. We are working closely with the vendor and the band to post the song in its entirety on this site and ensure that this does not happen again.”

Pearl Jam, known for taking strong public stands on political and market issues, published the following on their website and are using the incident as an example of why we need net neutrality:

“This troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media. AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media.”


AT&T Silences Pearl Jam; Gives ‘Net Neutrality’ Proponents Ammunition [Forbes]

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Several readers have correctly pointed out that net neutrality is not about either free speech or corporate censorship. Net neutrality specifically refers to the concept of an open network, one free of restrictions on the type of equipment used on it or the mode of communication. In practical terms, net neutrality is concerned with protecting the “last mile” of residential broadband networks so that individual ISPs can’t block services or technology wholesale, without allowing for competition.

Instances such as the Pearl Jam censorship, even if they are accidental as AT&T says, serve as easy ammunition for net neutrality proponents because they remind consumers of how corporations and free speech don’t always mix. AT&T is not obligated to give Pearl Jam an open platform to speak politically; the fear, however, is that if companies like AT&T controlled the last mile, they could effectively stamp out any competition–and then they could control what the customer watches, hears, or reads. The Pearl Jam incident is a weak argument since AT&T was the commercial sponsor of the webcast, but because censorship is such an emotional topic, we’re not surprised it’s being used. (And because it’s being used, weak or not, the tag “net neutrality” remains valid.)

We’re sure some readers have far more knowledge about this topic than we do, and we invite them to elaborate on the topic or politely correct us in the comments below.

Wikipedia entry on network neutrality
ACLU page that explains some net neutrality issues in plain English
Public Knowledge Net Neutrality White Paper
3-minute video explaining net neutrality

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(Photo: Getty)

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