With all the fuss LapTop Magazine's News Editor Joanna Stern and I caused with our five minute VoIP "hook up" over Aircell a few weeks back that really stirred up a lot of attention, I had to laugh when I read that there is now a growing concern over American Airline's passengers possibly using the AirCell WiFi service to join what I'm calling the Virtual Mile High Club.
Let's take a step back and first consider the challenges that Aircell will now be facing with filtering.
1. Filtering of Internet Content will have Aircell compared to the countries that block content, just like what happened to Denver Airport. There even David Byrne, the former Talking Heads lead singer had to wonder who the PsychoKillers were, as the approach to blocking the not very taboo blog BoingBoing must have conjured up lines in the song "Stop Making Sense" that he penned 30 years or so ago.
2. Next is the question of what is called the Prurient Interest test to define obscenity. This makes one ask, "whose definition applies?" Let's say I'm sitting three across in the middle seat. Next to on my left a man or woman on the plane who has starred in adult films. On the right side of me is a Southern Baptist preacher? Whose definition applies?
The situation that Aircell now has is that if they block content by agreeing to the wishes of the airlines, they or American Airlines are censoring which WikiPedia defines as:
Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful or sensitive, as determined by a censor. The rationale for censorship is different for various types of data censored:
* Moral censorship is the removal of materials that censor deems to be obscene or otherwise morally questionable. Pornography, for example, is often censored under this rationale, especially child pornography, which is censored in most jurisdictions in the world. In another example, graphic violence resulted in the censorship of the "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" movie entitled Scarface originally completed in 1932.
* Military censorship is the process of keeping military intelligence and tactics confidential and away from the enemy. This is used to counter espionage, which is the process of gleaning military information. Very often, militaries will also attempt to suppress politically inconvenient information even if those information has no actual intelligence value.
* Political censorship occurs when governments hold back secret information from their citizens. The logic is to prevent the free expression needed to rebel. Any dissent against the government is thought to be a "weakness" for the enemy to exploit. Campaign tactics are also often kept secret: see the Watergate scandal.
* Religious censorship is the means by which any material objectionable to a certain faith is removed. This often involves a dominant religion forcing limitations on less prevalent ones. Alternatively, one religion may shun the works of another when they believe the content is not appropriate for their faith.
* Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to halt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light. Privately owned corporations in the business of reporting the news also sometimes refuse to distribute information due to the potential loss of advertiser revenue or shareholder value which adverse publicity may bring. See media bias. Trade secret law may be used by corporations as a censorship device. For example, trade secret law may help keep company-sponsored research confidential, when revealing it would reveal negative health effects of the product researched.
That's also known as Prior Restraint, which is something a lot of civil libertarians find quite objectionable on face. You see, Prior Restraint is an unconstitutional act.3. Then there is the whole issue of Art vs. Porn. One person's idea of a work of art, featuring a semi-clad person is another person's porn. Who draws the line? I guess that means that Aircell will have to block just about every web site, spending time and money to be the web police. Somehow I don't think they will or even can for a variety of reasons.
What I also have to find even funnier is that for years no one has ever made this kind of noise about anyone reading Playboy or Penthouse on the plane. Heck, they were even sold at the newsstands inside airports. Then again, there's always the concept of CrewDating. So before that flight attendant makes their choice on what's objectionable, perhaps they need to walk into the restroom and look first in the mirror because their off flight behavior may be at the very least a violation of the Mann Act.What's that?
The Act criminalized transport of "any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery . . . or for any other immoral purpose". The vague language of "any other immoral purpose" was used to greatly expand the scope of the Mann Act in subsequent years