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AT&T Denies Censorship, Won't Change Contract 170

Posted by kdawson
from the trust-us-we're-good-guys dept.
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."
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AT&T Denies Censorship, Won't Change Contract

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  • Clause not needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:01PM (#20826033) Homepage Journal
    If all they want to do is assert their right to shut down exploitative sites & users, wouldn't clauses A (violation of Acceptable Use Policy) and B (violation of law/regulation/tariff/etc.) be enough, without clause C (make AT&T look bad)?
  • Re:Ok (Score:4, Insightful)

    by omeomi (675045) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:06PM (#20826119) Homepage
    A company spokesman said it's not a big deal because they have no intent to censor criticism.

    Oh, well okay then, why didn't they say so? Hell, we should give the government the right to censor too, as long as they _say_ they have no intent to do it...I mean, governments and big corporations never lie to the populace, right?

  • Re:Ok (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SargentDU (1161355) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:08PM (#20826157)
    But you have to be a customer for them to cut you off.
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:12PM (#20826229)

    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

    Then it won't be a problem removing it, now will it? Especially since existing tort law covers libel?

    Any time someone says "oh, we don't intend to use that clause, ignore it", the correct answer is "I don't intend to take a verbal assurance you won't exercise a contractually granted right."

    Any time someone insists on guaranteeing something off the record or verbally instead of in the contract you are negotiating there is a reason, especially when their statements contradict terms in the contract.

  • by QCompson (675963) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:16PM (#20826307)
    Blanket censorship excuse: "We're uhh... stopping the exploitation of children!"

    Blanket surveillance excuse: "We're uhh... stopping the exploitation of children!"

    Blanket excuse for a telecommunication company/government entity to do anything and everything it wants: "We're uhh... stopping the exploitation of children!"

    Why has this method been so effective for so long? When will the madness end?
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:19PM (#20826343) Homepage
    I detest the transparent prevarications of companies (and governments and ...) that claim a mile, but say "don't worry, we won't use more than an inch." I can understand that given the fuzziness of legal boundaries a prudent corporation might want to give himself a little extra wiggle-room, but my limited experience is that whatever is claimed will, eventually, be used... all of it.

    There's a wonderful scene in a novel by John D. MacDonald's book Condominium in which a an agent pushes a legal paper at a condominium buyer saying it is "just a formality." A week later, the buyer is in the office trying to get action on various construction problems and glitches. The air conditioner won't work, for example. The agent says "You can handle that yourself; contact the manufacturer." After several serious complaints have been brushed aside, the buyer starts mumbling about withholding payments and legal action, and the agent tells him that he's basically signed all his rights away.

    "But you said that was just a formality," says the buyer.

    "That's right," says the agent, "it is a formal, binding, legal agreement."
  • by pokerdad (1124121) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:23PM (#20826385)

    New management. I don't know what you're complaining about. You signed it without duress, and initialed the clause indicating you'd read and understood it.

    Sounds like several rental agreements I've had over the years. When moving in I ask the landlord to make note of a dozen or more minor flaws with the apartment. The landlord either outright refuses (saying, we would never ding you for something that small), or says they'll do it but doesn't, then when I am trying to get my damage deposit back years later and am now dealing with a different person I lose most or all of the deposit because there is no documentation that says these little problems pre-date me.

  • by Qzukk (229616) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:36PM (#20826609) Journal
    person a "Oh, ok. I won't go there then. There's only 14 million other hosting copmanies and plenty of ISP's"

    Yeah, I was thinking of switching back to dialup too. There just isn't that much need for me to have websites display in less than a couple of minutes, and online gaming was kind of overrated.

    Of course, my dialup would be going over AT&T's phonelines, so I suppose they could send some guy out with the wirecutters if they don't like what I have to say.
  • by ShaunC (203807) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:38PM (#20826643)

    When will the madness end?
    When everyone quits having children. I'm doing my part!
  • by enrevanche (953125) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:27PM (#20828337)
    clause C (make AT&T look bad)

    should actually be stated

    clause C (make AT&T look worse)

    which is actually not really feasible, so it should be impossible for them to shut you off

  • by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:30PM (#20828391) Homepage Journal

    with exceptions for specific laws, eg. hate speech, where they apply

    Problem is, one man's freedom of speech is another man's hate speech.

    • If I feel oppressed or offended by you pointing out the flaws in my religion, then I have grounds to have your account terminated under hate speech laws.
    • If your religion condemns my sexual choices, then I can have your speech banned under most hate speech laws.
    • If you question the holocaust, or are even unsure of the numbers killed (was it four million? or six?), then your speech can be banned under hate speech laws.

    Hate speech laws are just that - they hate your freedom of speech. There are already laws on the books which prevent threatening and defamatory speech; the reason for hate speech laws is to prevent discussion on a particular topic, instead making it illegal to publicly espouse a position contrary to the politically correct one enshrined in law. The goal is to silence dissent and prevent critical thought on the issues of the day. The end result is that a small minority of politically connected people are able to force their particular vision of morality on the rest of the public.

    Sure, you might think that someone who doesn't like homosexuality is a bigot; as long as hate speech laws exist, you'll never discover that there are some very good arguments against homosexuality, and that most who object to it do so not out of hatred, but because they've seen the effect it has had on

"I've seen it. It's rubbish." -- Marvin the Paranoid Android