AT&T Censor Live Pearl Jam Webcast | Another Reason To Fight For Net Neutrality

2 min read

AT&T LogoAT&T have stated on a number of different occasions
that it won’t block, degrade or censor websites.

This argument has
prevented legislation and regulation that would see telecom companies
such as them be made to play fair with content providers.

Not to get too technical here, but they didn’t
promise not to
censor, did they? Let’s add that little crime against speech
to the
list of reasons why Internet Freedom/Net Neutrality is a good idea.

It seems as if AT&T was the sponsor of the Webcast of
a Pearl
Jam concert at Lollapalooza on Saturday night (Aug. 4). Soon after the
performance ended, the band started getting word from its fans that
part of a song had been cut out. 

It turns out that the parts that were
blocked were during the song, “Daughter,” as the
band had substituted
some lyrics critical of President Bush.

Specifically, they sang, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s
“Another Brick
in the Wall,” the words, “George Bush, leave this
world alone” and
George Bush find yourself another home.” The band
explains it all here

So how shall we interpret this? According to the band, the
explanation from AT&T was to blame the censorship on their

Pearl Jam

Blaming a junior staffer is the standard excuse
when an
organization, such as a political campaign, wants to avoid taking
responsibility for a policy or action that leads to something bad or
embarrassing, and so fobs the bad deed off on some junior person to
take the fall.

Why Have A Content Monitor?

The larger question is, why do they have a “content
monitor?” This
isn’t TV, where the Federal Cussing Commission is looking
everyone’s shoulder. There isn’t a rule about what
content can get
streamed over the Internet, at least not yet.

AT&T is really getting into its role as content nanny
in a big
way. First, it starts monitoring all sorts of conversations for the
National Security Agency. 

Then it promises to work with the movie
studios and NBC to come up with some super software to tag copyrighted
material that flows through its network, regardless of how that content
is used. Now it puts “content monitors” on its

We must ask: This is the company that want to be left alone to
the Internet as it sees fit? The corporate officials of AT&T
to give speeches and to tell the FCC and Congress that they
won’t block
people’s access to content. 

They made that promise when they
BellSouth for $80 billion last year. Former AT&T CEO Ed
made it in a speech last March.

They protest too much. Despite the denials from Whitacre and
in the telecom industry, this incident is just one more count in the

Millions of people all over the country have signed
petitions and told the government that they don’t want
companies like
AT&T to have control over what goes over the Internet. If you
to ask why, this is why.

As the band said on its Web page:
“AT&T’s actions strike at the
heart of the public’s concerns over the power that
corporations have
when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through
communications media.”

Pearl Jam has had a lot of hits, but it couldn’t
write anything more
striking than this: “What happened to us this weekend was a
wake up
call, and it’s about something much bigger than the
censorship of a
rock band.” It’s about protecting free speech and a
free Internet.

Art Brodsky is a contributing author discussing matters relating to the broadband video and IPTV industry. His work can be found on Public Knowledge. Post has Some Rights Reserved.