The company’s treatment of Naral sparked renewed discussion Thursday about the limits of free speech when large corporations control communications networks.
It also reignited debate over what’s known in policymaking circles as net neutrality: the question of whether telecom providers have a right to treat various forms of content differently or whether they must adopt a neutral stance toward everything in cyberspace.
The telecom industry has lobbied aggressively in recent years to be given the right to have the last word on anything crossing its networks. Bills addressing the matter were introduced in Congress last year but didn’t get anywhere.
Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, a leading advocacy group for net neutrality, said Verizon’s temporary blocking of Naral’s messages highlighted the need for legislation that prohibited telecom companies from asserting control over online or wireless content.
“The fundamental democratic principles of free speech, privacy and open communication are too important to be entrusted to these corporate gatekeepers,” he said in a statement.
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