Verizon, an American ISP, wants to censor the Internet

The United States’ Federal Communications Commission has issued an Open Internet Order which, more or less, prevents ISPs from blocking or restricting access to legal content on the Internet just because they [the ISPs] disagree with the content or because they are providing a competing service or because they are being paid to block content by a third party or etc. Verizon, a major broadband provider in the USA, has sued the FCC in an attempt to have the Open Internet Order annulled.

Here is a section from Verizon’s filing with the United States Court of Appeals:

Broadband providers transmit their own speech both by developing their own content and by partnering with other content providers and adopting that speech as their own. For example, they develop video services, which draw information from, and are then made available over, the Internet. Many also select or create content for their own over-the-top video services or offer applications that provide access to particular content. They also transmit the speech of others: each day millions of individuals use the Internet to promote their own opinions and ideas and to explore those of others, and broadband providers convey those communications.

In performing these functions, broadband providers possess “editorial discretion.” Just as a newspaper is entitled to decide which content to publish and where, broadband providers may feature some content over others. Although broadband providers have generally exercised their discretion to allow all content in an undifferentiated manner, Order ¶ 14 (JA__), they nonetheless possess discretion that these rules preclude them from exercising.

Essentially what Verizon is trying to argue before the court is Verizon, as a broadband service provider that provides other products and services, deserves the same “editorial discretion” allotted to newspaper editors. In other words, Verizon is saying it deserves the right to control where, when, and how content is displayed and accessed on the Internet by Verizon subscribers. To put it simply, Verizon wants to censor the Internet in favor of services provided by Verizon and its partners as opposed to freely allowing Verizon subscribers to access whatever content they desire, such as content provided by Verizon competitors.

In a twisted, lawyer-esque way Verizon’s argument make sense. However, in reality, it is bullsh!t. Newspaper editors have editorial discretion because newspaper customers subscribe to that specific newspaper and depend on the editors to filter content, to prevent the newspapers from turning into books; if any newspaper is ever found to be censoring news, subscribership will drop faster than flies. Verizon’s broadband customers don’t pay for ‘Verizon’s Internet'; they pay for access to the Internet. Any attempt by Verizon to assert “editorial discretion” amounts to nothing less than censorship and should not be tolerated.

Hopefully the judge(s) presiding over Verizon’s appeal will see the ill-logic behind Verizon’s logic and shoot down the appeal without question. If not, this may be the beginning of a dark digital future. Feel free to rage against Verizon in the comments below.

[via BGR]

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26 comments

  1. suffolkcountyattorney

    Verizon not only wants to quash any comments from customers, but also the things that are coming out about what they do to employees. Discrimination against the disabled, folks of color, women, hiring hit men, such as MetLife and shill doctors, to do their dirty work, -you name it. Verizon can no longer stop the sharing of information so they are trying to walk all over the Constitution (but still make the $billions)-hey, maybe they want all women lawyers gone and/or being completely covered head to toe and only allowed in court accompanied by men (I am not a man-hater, BTW-lots of attorneys of both sexes in the Suffolk County Bar Assn have been very helpful, esp to a newbie like me). The sharing of info is now interfering with Verizon’s legal tactics of stopping plaintiffs from being able to gather evidence against them. Then, if Verizon does decide to offer something (after spending far more than that settlement on their $1K an hour attorneys who show up 12 at a clip to trample the little folks), if the plaintiffs do consider a settlement, most of the exhausted ones (not us, not Neal Dias, not a whole bunch more people who now have strength due to support from others sharing their strength, knowledge, and evidence) will take a crappy one and sign a non-disclosure agreement, is coming to an end. So, now Verizon wants to turn back the clock of progress but only for its own benefit. Disgusting on so many levels.

  2. Ray

    I’m resident in the UK, so does not really affect me.
    I’m against any censorship on the web.
    We have to remember that this company, along with all others, are money making machines.
    You hit them hardest by restricting their cash-flow. Change ISP!

  3. MikeR

    Excellent article, and thanks for the heads-up. Verizon — fortunately, it seems — means nothing at all here in the UK. But the implications most certainly do.

    In a nutshell, Verizon customers pay for it to provide a conduit to the Internet.

    They do not pay for it to be the conductor of the orchestra of whichever moral majority happens to be in vogue at a particular time.

    Allowing an Internet Service Provider to do more than provide an Internet service is a fast road back to burned books and the medieval.

  4. fkasper

    Verizon needs a major bitch slappin’.

    I don’t use them because I like them.
    I use them because they have the best/only connections in my area.

    Why does verizon execs wear Tshirts?
    To keep the 4-skin from covering their faces.

  5. Peter

    Isn’t there multiple redundancy in “In a twisted, lawyer-esque way Verizon’s argument make sense. However, in reality, it is bullsh!t.”? ;)
    It seems to me that Verizon’s CEO is not a person but “Chinese Ethics Offense”.

  6. meldasue

    @FJL: That’s the big difference between a newspaper and a broadband provider – you can buy another newspaper. It’s more like the newspaper stand deciding what it will sell – which is acceptable because you can go to another newspaper stand or even order your censored content direct from the publisher. In many places, you don’t have a choice – where I live, it’s Comcast (or whatever they are now) or satellite. (And satellite isn’t an option for many people.)

    To me, the big concern – and I’m sure this is what the French law is getting at – is the possibility that content will be censored for political reasons. It would be tough to shut down access to everything – what is more likely would be a ‘fast track’ from the home page (which will be hijacked into your browser and difficult to change) to, say, FOX News, with certain well-known alternative sources significantly slowed. When you consider that your average person is just looking for news and doesn’t really think about the source, a company could really have an impact on elections and public opinion.

  7. five words

    CORPORATE media doesn’t control what you think. THEY control what you’re allowed to think about. Now verizon wants to join the corporate media whores, funny . . . got rid of phone service 12 years ago. Thanks for the post Ashraf.

    Happy Trails, . . .

  8. Brent Coughenour, Sr

    I will not only get rid of thier telephone but internet and dsl and also direct tv through them in a heartbeat verizon a bunch of foreign obama butt buddies that cannot even speak english well sucks anyway in fact just the thought of them wanting this will cancel all tomorrow I use hughes Sattelite service at home anyhow dont need none of thier shit.

  9. Coyote

    I can see their logic but it seems their thinking only goes as far as the front doors of their main HQ. Sure they are free to edit any content Verizon has created or has express permission to. Unfortunately for them 99.99999% of the internet doesn’t qualify.

  10. clockmendergb

    maybe I am paranoid,maybe not.

    Would it not be easier for the government to control traffic if only the ISP had the last say.
    I cannot forget that ATT Built rooms and split the traffic into 2 identical channels so that Homeland security could spy on everybody.
    Without telling anybody until somebody got a picture out no less.

    Now the Federal communications seem to be on our side but will the DHS be in the background siding with ISP,s in order to keep a more controllable lock on traffic.
    After ATT I wonder what the others also do for them.
    And who,s side will the Judges be on?.

    Just questions rattling around in the Brain

  11. Dru

    I get it, and I agree with the analysis here. As a business Verizon is seeking competitive advantage. To take Verizon seriously I think the judge would have to order a split of Verizon, splitting internet provision from content provision.

  12. DrTszap

    Rather short sighted of Verizon… if they control the content they are no longer a ‘common carrier’ and become liable for any prohibited and/or malicious content (e.g. spam, viruses, warez, hate speech…) Here’s hoping the court rules to this effect

  13. Injeun

    Heil Verizon! Yeah, it’s a door better left shut. But that’s what government is for…objectively looking at the big picture. And if necessary, ruling that one can or cannot do this or that in the preservation of common sense and/or freedom.

  14. JT

    all I can say is WOW! I sure hope the judge strikes that down too! Please let us know asap what happens with that. We want access to what we pay for, not what our provider wants us to see! Does free market mean nothing to these people? Sounds like someone’s afraid of competition!!

  15. Ira

    Once more Verizon says “GREED IS GOOD”!!!

    One more reason I hate Verizon’s FIOS cable service and the lies they have in their advertising about the TV service and their Broadband gateway.