AT&T surrenders over ‘censorship’ tempest

Having absorbed an unmerciful – and I would suggest, largely overwrought -- pounding over legalese tucked within the bowels of its terms of service language, AT&T is committing to a rewrite that the company says will assure one and all that it respects the First Amendment.

As posted here last week:

The AT&T terms of service language … has created (an) uproar among bloggers and other freedom-loving members of the Internet community. The most contentious phrase can be found in section 5.1 of this document and says that AT&T can pull the plug on anyone or anything that "tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries."

Sure sounds unreasonable, and given AT&T's recent record of kowtowing to government snoops, you'd have to forgive people for considering such action within the realm and such language alarming. In fact, many were alarmed.

Not me. Why? Simple: I’ve met many AT&T executives and it doesn’t strike me that any were raised by idiots. Pull the plug on a Web site or two simply because they speak ill of AT&T and you can be certain that the public relations shi- , uh, thunderstorm, would be such that the company would wish it had never hired a lawyer to look over that language.

The company’s explanation that it included such language to protect itself in the event of needing to vanquish a child pornographer or advocate of violence made sense – at least to me.

But, hey, in this kind of thing perception is reality and AT&T was taking a horrendous beating in the perception department.

So, according to an e-mail I received tonight from an AT&T spokesman:

“I wanted to give you a quick update on the terms of service language posted on last week.  We are revising the terms of service to clarify our intent, and the language in question will be revised to reflect AT&T's respect for our customers’ right to express opinions and concerns over any matter they wish.  We will also make clear that we do not terminate service because a customer expresses their opinion about AT&T.

“I encourage you to let your readers know that this change is being made, and I will send the revised statement as soon as it is available.”

As made clear in my original post, I’m not at all certain such clarification is necessary, but we will be certain to bring you the details as soon as they are released by AT&T.

In the meantime, I’ve missed the end of the Colbert Report and am none too happy about it.

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