United States Carrier Verizon reverses Refusal of Abortion Rights Text Messages

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Sep 27, 2007

In a quick move, the US carrier Verizon today reversed its refusal to issue a short code to abortion rights advocacy organization NARAL. According to a statement by Verizon:

"The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident. Upon learning about this situation, senior Verizon Wireless executives immediately reviewed the decision and determined it was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy. That policy, developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters adequately protected customers from unwanted messages, was designed to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children.

"Verizon Wireless is proud to provide services such as text messaging, which are being harnessed by organizations and individuals communicating their diverse opinions about issues and topics. We have
great respect for this free flow of ideas and will continue to protect the ability to communicate broadly through our messaging service."

We reported yesterday on Verizon's week-old refusal to issue a short code, even though the carrier has been used to send messages to NARAL supporters for some time via a shared short code. This quick reversal indicates that Verizon doe not want to PR snafoo this would create, nor the revenue from advocacy campaigns. According to an article on the NYTimes website posted earlier today,

In rejecting the Naral program, Verizon appeared to be acting against its economic interests. It would have received a small fee to set up the program and additional fees for messages sent and received....

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 it has not dabbled in text messaging.

Of course, text message campaigns have been highly effective in many other parts of the world whereas advocacy and public interest campaigns using text and mobiles. in the United States are just now beginning to take off. Contrary to Verizon's statement about the increased effectiveness of spam filters, all carriers also require campaigns and nonprofit organizations to abide by an industry code of conduct that calls for strict opt-in and opt-out procedures for consumers and constituents.


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