FCC moves closer to ruling on SMS censorship issue

I’ve been following this issue since the brouhaha that erupted after Verizon blocked NARAL (the national abortion rights action league) from allowing supporters to use SMS to subscribe to news alerts, stating that they often did not allow “unsavory” or “highly controversial”organizations to use this service. Now the FCC is getting close to making their decision on the legality of such a block– they are still accepting feedback from the public …

Read about it at Ars Technica

Or after the jump

“The FCC is collecting final comments on the subject of text message censorship in preparation for a policy review that will address whether or not mobile carriers should be allowed to discriminate against text message transmitters based on content.

The controversy over text message censorship began last year when Verizon initially declined to permit pro-choice abortion activism group NARAL to use an SMS short code for distributing opt-in messages to Verizon customers. Verizon doesn’t monitor or filter individual messages, but does reserve the right to deprive short code holders of access to its networks in cases where the company deems the content too controversial. Verizon was the only carrier to turn down NARAL, and quickly reversed the decision after receiving widespread criticism.

Tech freedom advocacy group Public Knowledge, Free Press and other groups were unsatisfied with Verizon’s turnaround and have asked the FCC to issue a clear policy position that will block Verizon from engaging in similar practices in the future. Noting that the FCC already unambiguously forbids similar discrimination in voice calls and e-mails, the activist groups argue that there is no reason why those same protections shouldn’t extend to SMS messaging, especially since it is becoming an increasingly important vector for communication.

Verizon has also been accused of denying short code access to companies that intend to use SMS to promote of facilitate services that compete directly with other services offered by the carrier. Critics argue that this practice stifles innovation and discourages third-party development of some SMS-based services that are potentially advantageous to consumers.

On the other side of the debate, the carriers claim that regulation barring any discrimination of short code usage would be detrimental because it would weaken their ability to block legitimately obnoxious content like Viagra ads and phishing schemes.

The FCC will have to decide whether SMS short codes should be held to the same standards as common carrier services like voice and e-mail. The advocacy groups are convinced that the rules need to be extended, but some question the need for additional regulatory intervention. Critics of the FCC’s action point to the fact that the one single documented instance of ideologically-motivated short code censorship was reversed following public outcry as indicating that the FCC’s hands-off approach in this matter has been working.

The deadline for submitting comments to the FCC is Monday, April 14.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: