Thursday December 13, 2018

The EFF Blasts the FCC Text Messaging Vote as Promoting Censorship

The EFF and other groups have lambasted the latest FCC vote to keep text messaging classified as "information services" as another measure that elevates the power of corporations over the rights of consumers. The EFF notes that wireless providers such as Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have already been caught numerous times discriminating and censoring texts related to political speech, charities, businesses, and religious groups. Also reclassifying text messages as "telecommunications services" "under Title II would require that wireless carriers contribute to the Universal Service Fund which funds initiatives to, among other things, increase the availability and affordability of phone and Internet services for rural and low-income users." The FCC release can be read here.

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Lone dissenting FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called the ruling "doublespeak" as "doublespeak is language designed to evade responsibility, make the unpleasant appear pleasant and the unattractive appear attractive" in her statement. She also notes that none of the talking points brought up by dissenters were referenced in the FCC statement to mislead Americans with discussions about spam. She says that the FCC has already empowered the wireless carriers to block spam and scam texts. "At the same time, this approach makes a range of key FCC policies newly vulnerable--from roaming obligations to universal service. But you will find no discussion of these harms in today's decision." She goes on to say that the "approach we take now does not newly empower consumers," it "empowers companies instead" by letting them "censor content . . . at their whim . . . rather than at the consumer's will."

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai reiterates that the ruling is strictly about filtering spam, scams, and robotexts. He goes on to talk about how robocalls are plaguing the nation and are the number one category of consumer complaints. He lists numerous groups that say they want to keep spam, scams and robotexts off text messaging platforms. He finds it "unfortunate that one of my colleagues has suggested that those in favor of our action today--including Democratic state attorneys general, African-American elected officials, and consumer groups--are aiding and abetting, if not engaging in themselves, deception and "doublespeak." Actually, doublespeak is demanding that companies offer robocall-blocking tools to consumers for free while--on the very same day--voting to block wireless messaging providers from continuing to use free robotextblocking tools to protect consumers from unwanted text messages."