Ars Technica is reporting that American Airlines and Delta announced this week that they would block “inappropriate” sites on their in-flight WiFi service.
As recently as last month, they had left the matter up to the good judgment of their customers. It seems like the judgment of their customers has crashed with the economy and is no longer trustworthy.
As Jacqui at Ars Technica points out, travelers have always been able to bring video porn and “men’s magazines” on to the plane- it has always been up to their “good judgment”. The Internet changes nothing- except the ease with which the gatekeepers can control access to content.
Keep in mind, the problem here is not porn (nor it is the theoretical hazard of WiFi on a plane). The problem is: who gets to decide which site gets blocked. What is inappropriate? Of course, this problem will blow up in their face when the service enters the mainstream. Expect some genius to set up a web site where people can submit legitimate web sites that were blocked by AA and Delta- which will then become a PR fiasco for the airlines. They will have inadvertently blocked a competitor, or a detractor or the ACLU or the NAACP or something much simpler, and will be faced with the wrath of a thousand blogs, with the mainstream media not far behind.
In anticipation of that day, the inaugural Think About the Children Award goes to Delta and American Airlines! This award is reserved for those entities that, in the name of protecting children, use a sledgehammer to thread a needle.