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Cell Phone Censorship in San Francisco? » Blog of Rights: Official Blog of th... - 0 views

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    Pop quiz: where did a government agency shut down cell service yesterday to disrupt a political protest? Syria? London? Nope. San Francisco.

    The answer may seem surprising, but that's exactly what happened yesterday evening. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) asked wireless providers to halt service in four stations in San Francisco to prevent protestors from communicating with each other. The action came after BART notified riders that there might be demonstrations in the city.

    All over the world people are using mobile devices to organize protests against repressive regimes, and we rightly criticize governments that respond by shutting down cell service, calling their actions anti-democratic and a violation of the rights to free expression and assembly. Are we really willing to tolerate the same silencing of protest here in the United States?

    BART's actions were glaringly small-minded as technology and the ability to be connected have many uses. Imagine if someone had a heart attack on the train when the phones were blocked and no one could call 911.

    And where do we draw the line? These protestors were using public transportation to get to the demonstration - should the government be able to shut that down too?

    Shutting down access to mobile phones is the wrong response to political protests, whether it's halfway around the world or right here at home. The First Amendment protects everybody's right to free expression, and when the government responds to people protesting against it by silencing them, it's dangerous to democracy.
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