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AT&T "Watch that mouth on you son!"
Written by Daniel   
Monday, 01 October 2007 10:36
AT&T threatens to disconnect subscribers who criticize the company

By Ken Fisher | Published: September 30, 2007 - 11:00PM CT
ARS Technica
AT&T has rolled out new Terms of Service for its DSL service that leave plenty of room for interpretation. From our reading of it, in concert with several others, what we see is a ToS that attempts to give AT&T the right to disconnect its own customers who criticize the company on blogs or in other online settings. AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines, or (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.

Translation: "conduct" that AT&T "believes" "tends to damage" its name, or the name of its partners, can get you booted off the service. Note the use of "tends to damage": the language of the contract does not require any proof of any actual damage.

The story, which surfaced at the venerable Slashdot, has many people outraged and is being discussed as a prime example of why net neutrality is needed. I think that puts the cart before the horse, however. Here's why.

There's nothing which guarantees that what AT&T is doing here is either legal or what the company intends. This wouldn't be the first time that poorly thought-out legal language made it into a contract used by a major corporation. Why are we thinking it's an oversight? Simple: we believe that AT&T isn't misguided enough to expect to be able to squash First Amendment rights with a ToS contract without losing both face and their cozy legal status.... More          Comment in the Forum

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