The New York Times (registration required) reported yesterday
that Verizon Wireless refused to allow an opt-in text messaging program from an abortion rights advocacy group. Verizon, to its credit, quickly reversed course
, blaming the incident on an "incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy." The reversal came as a relief, though not a great surprise. From the moment the story started drawing significant news coverage, it was hard to imagine that Verizon Wireless would stand by its initial decision. Abortion is a controversial topic, but the messages from Naral Pro-Choice America would have gone only to subscribers who signed up for them. And while Verizon may want to keep hate speech and spam off its network, there's no reason to think Naral's messages would come close to either category.
Anyway, Naral will now be allowed to run its text-messaging program. And Verizon will surely take a careful look at its policies and where they are intended to apply. Verizon Wireless reportedly had told Naral that its policy barred message programs that "promote an agenda" or "may be seen as controversial." In contrast, the later-released Verizon statement spoke approvingly of text messaging being "harnessed by organizations and individuals communicating their diverse opinions" and being used "to communicate broadly." CDT would like to see Verizon Wireless adopt an express policy reflecting those views, and make that policy public.
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