AT&T: Net Neutrality Tool?

learnenglish-central-stories-animal-farm-330x220.gif Forbes, normally more of a capitalist tool than a flaming radical rag, keeps covering AT&T’s Pearl Jam fiasco:
AT&T’s “content monitor” hit the mute button during part of Pearl Jam’s “Blue Room” Live Lollapalooza Webcast sponsored by the telecom, depriving viewers of some anti-George Bush lyrics—and handing live ammunition to “net neutrality” proponents in the form of an almost perfect example of what they predict will happen if a few companies are allowed to control the broadband pipeline.

AT&T Silences Pearl Jam; Gives ‘Net Neutrality’ Proponents Ammunition, Staci D. Kramer,, 08.09.07, 7:45 PM ET

Their followup gets even better:
AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said that the silencing was a mistake and that the company was working with the vendor that produces the webcasts to avoid future misunderstandings. He said AT&T was working to secure the rights to post the entire song – part of a sing-along with the audience – on the Blue Room site.

AT&T Errs in Edit of Anti-Bush Lyrics, By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Forbes, 08.10.07, 10:59 AM ET

While the lumbering dinosaur was working on that, Pearl Jam already had the uncensored version on their site.

And it just keeps getting better.

Pearl Jam wasn’t the only band censored:

AT&T issued a statement on Friday admitting that this kind of thing has happened before. And the company once again apologized.

“It’s not our intent to edit political comments in Webcasts on,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it has happened in the past in a handful of cases. We have taken steps to ensure that it won’t happen again.”

AT&T admits it censored other bands, by Marguerite Reardon,, August 13, 2007 3:44 PM PDT

So what are they censoring?
But then reported Friday that it had received an e-mail stating that Webcasts from the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in June had also been edited. Specifically, comments made during the John Butler Trio show when a band member remarked on the government’s lack of response during Hurricane Katrina were deleted, as were comments from the group Flaming Lips about George Bush screwing up. also reported Monday that Pearl Jam’s publicist was notified that a fan watching the Bonnaroo concert also claims that comments made by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine had also been edited.

Hm, all political content.

What didn’t AT&T edit out?

AT&T said the only cuts it makes are for profanity, because the Blue Room has no age restrictions, but a Pearl Jam spokesperson noted that fans forwarded more than 20 incidents of the F-word that got through the Lolla broadcast of PJ’s show, while the Bush lines did not. Also getting through were comments critical of oil giant BP Amoco and a strongly worded anti-Iraq war speech about the “criminal occupation” of Iraq from a wheelchair-bound Iraq war veteran and friend of Vedder’s, Thomas Young. That speech was followed by the new Vedder song “No More War.”

AT&T Admits It Edited Webcasts Before Pearl Jam’s, Company says edits of political comments have happened a ‘handful’ of other times. By Gil Kaufman, Aug 13 2007 3:31 PM EDT

Proponents of censorship always seems to be doing it to protect the children. And this has turned into a textbook case of how that often turns into something else, namely political censorship.

Also a textbook case of AT&T lying. First they said it never happened before. Then they said they only make cuts for profanity. At least they have so far had the good sense to apologize when caught in each lie. They have not, however, had the good sense to come clean about what other acts they censored, or what are the measures they claim they’re taking to prevent this happening again.

So they didn’t actually cut out profanity, but they did edit remarks critical of George Bush. Marguerite Reardon can’t think of any business reason to do that. Well, I can: AT&T has been a major beneficiary of the Bush administration’s FCC’s “regulation” of telephone and the Internet, and might not want people thinking that anything should be done to change that.

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready says:

Make no mistake I am an artist and a capitalist because of this system that I believe in and our country.
To have capitalism, we need the rule of law and freedom of information. I wonder what Pearl Jam’s or Lollapalooza’s contract with AT&T says? I know what the First Amendment says.

More in a different post on AT&T and the First Amendment.

If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

—George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1945

And we’ll get to keep that right if we get effective regulation of the duopoly or competition in Internet access or both.