AT&T Censorship Update


Update on AT&T’s censorship of criticism in their Terms of Service (Slashdot):

Vox writes “As we discussed here a few days back, AT&T’s Terms of Service has very broad language giving them the right to terminate the account of any AT&T Internet service customer who criticizes the company. Ars Technica notes that such broad language is not unusual in ISPs’ terms of service, and that AT&T told them they won’t be changing the contract. A company spokesman said it’s not a big deal because they have no intent to censor criticism. AT&T claims to respect its subscribers’ right to voice their opinions and says that the contract is aimed at stopping the exploitation of children, and other tangible wrongs. As the article notes, taking the company on faith after the spying scandal is asking maybe a little too much.”

So their official reply is “Its for the children, trust us”?  From the Ars Technica Article:

“AT&T respects its subscribers’ rights to voice their opinions and concerns over any matter they wish.  However, we retain the right to disassociate ourselves from web sites and messages explicitly advocating violence, or any message that poses a threat to children (e.g. child pornography or exploitation),” the spokesperson told Ars Technica. “We do not terminate customer service solely because a customer speaks negatively about AT&T.”

Apparently.  Of course, if that’s the case, why not just specify that in the terms of agreement?  Why not change this:

To recap, in section 5 of its legal ToS, AT&T stipulates the following:

AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines, or (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.

All they need to do is alter subsection (c) to states:

(c) explicitly advocates violence or exploits minors.

Wouldn’t the rest be caught by the “constitutes a violation of any law” subsection?

Which is why their PR rings so hollow.  If that was all they wanted to clamp down on, they’d have specified as such in their terms.  What AT&T wants is the perception that they won’t censor users, while keeping that very option open.

AT&T can say all they want.  Their actions speak louder.

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