Thursday, September 27, 2007

Does Anti-Choice Mean Anti-Technology?

If you haven’t heard the about Verizon turning down NARAL’s plan to send text messages already, here’s the New York Times story. (UPDATE: It was a decison almost immediately reversed.)

I'm actually a Verizon customer for my landline and I'm already debating what I can do to send a message to the company. Maybe I should switch carriers. Do I even want to use the services of a company is just so bone-headed about business? This move on their part, which I'm sure someone thought was going to be less controversial, rather than more, is going to bring a ton of bring them a lot of bad PR and lose them income, both from turning down the campaign and from former subscribers like me. Way to go Verizon!

Anyway two things jumped out at me from the Times article.

One, this really explains what Net Neutrality is in a way that millions of people can understand and appreciate. That’s no small feat considering it’s a pretty complicated issue.

And also, I hope people don’t just dismiss this as a typical “pro-choice/anti-abortion” fight where everyone lines up on either Verizon’s or NARAL’s side depending upon how you feel about abortion. Because this is wrong no matter who Verizon turned down, whether it was the National Rifle Association or Focus on the Family. It’s not like the phone company should have the right to deny an organization a phone line because they don’t like their politics and it’s the same with text messaging. Hence the term “net neutrality” because the carrier shouldn’t get to control content.

Second, this paragraph jumped out at me:

Most of the candidates and advocacy groups that use text message programs are liberal, which may reflect the demographics of the technology’s users and developers. A spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee, which is in some ways Naral’s anti-abortion counterpart, said, for instance, that its has not dabbled in text messaging.
Now why is that? Is it that they have thought about it but thought it wasn’t worth the expense or effort? Was it they thought their supporters didn’t know or wouldn’t use the technology?

I do think progressives usually are first-movers on technological innovations, occasionally at the expense of older, more proven political organizing. (Sometimes newer isn’t better, or isn’t better…just yet.) However I don’t think NARAL is going to always have this advantage. Right To Life will probably adopt text messaging soon and I’m sure someone can point to me a technological-sophisticated messaging strategy used by conservative groups (not strategists…members.) We may have first-mover advantage but the thing about politics is that groups learn to adopt new strategies from successively rivals.


Anonymous said...

It would seem to me that Verizon should have the right to provide the product it wants to, just as you are able to cancel subscription and get another carrier. But it this case, if someone signs up to get a certain type of message, I don't see why Verizon would have reason to block them. Now, I am no text messaging guru--I don't even really know how this works. But a subscriber should also be able to block messages from NARAL or Right to Life if he or she wants to.

Legally, I think this is a complete non-issue.

Jim in Cleveland

NewsCat said...

The net neutrality is a HUGE issue. I do have to wonder Jim if Verizon had decided to block Right to Life if you would shrug it off so easily.

Okay for those who don't know text messaging, at least in this case, these were not unsolicted messages.

It was people who were going to text to NARAL and get back messages from them. It requires automation which is why organizations like NARAL pay for the service. (All of serious presidential candidates use text messaging this way to contact with supporters AFTER they have signed up by sending the first message.)

The issue of getting unsolicted messages is a separate issue and not related, at least in this case.

So basically if I wanted to join NARAL's campaign, and I happen to be on Cingular and I text them, I would get back the automated message. But if I was on Verizon, I wouldn't.

Again, the carrier SHOULDN'T have this right to provide a "product" by choice. The phone lines and the cable lines were built with a lot of subsidies of public money. While they are not government entities anymore the way Ma Bell was, let's not pretend they built these networks without help. Hence why they shouldn't get to treat their telecommunications system like private "string-and-tin-can" lines.

Anonymous said...

I only meant it was a non-issue because Verizon changed its mind, and had they an agenda, they would not have done so as swiftly as they did following the NYT story. Yeah, yeah, I know, the evil corporation, probably under the direction of the Vice President, was REALLY trying to keep you from controling your own body. Whatever.

I know this article said how important texting is. In this case it seems like nothing more than preaching to the respective choirs, to me. If I subscribe to NARAL messages, I gotta guess I am pro-abortion in the first place. I am pro-life, and I can't think of anything more annoying than the idea of getting text messages from Right to Life.

I am more concerned with media coverage of abortion, which I have always believed to be slanted toward you pro-aborts. Kids getting text messages from NARAL that say "Uncle Sam wants to get into your womb!" or "Have you aborted today?" don't exactly worry me.

Jim in Cleveland