Airlines and pornography filtering

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American Airlines has announced that it's going to filter pornography on it's in-flight Internet service:

FORT WORTH (AP) -- American Airlines says it will filter an in-flight Internet service to block pornography sites, reversing course after complaints from flight attendants and passengers. American said Tuesday it was working with technology provider Aircell to allow filtering of its nascent Internet service.

American, the nation's largest carrier, said it hasn't gotten reports of passengers viewing "inappropriate content" on the Gogo in-flight service but said filtering was "an appropriate measure to take."

The airline launched Internet service in August on some of its Boeing 767 jets that fly between New York and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami in a six-month trial.

This seems like a bit of an overreaction. First, downloading it while in the air is hardly the only way in which passengers could gain access to pornography. First, they could buy (or download) it prior to boarding. Some airport stores even sell skin magazines (which has always seemed odd to me). So, if you're really concerned about passengers viewing porn in flight, didn't you already have this problem? Is there any evidence that Internet access will make it dramatically worse? Moreover, now you have all the usual problems associated with filtering, especially deciding which sites are porn and false positives. Do you really want to be the flight attendant who explains to the customer who just paid $12.95 to access the Internet that American has decided to block his access to Mother Jones? And of course, it's relatively easy to circumvent this kind of blocking anyway.


This issue and cell phones on planes have been completely overblown. It brings out an highly emotional reaction from people. Porn on planes is been largely taken care of by informal social contracts and, well, shame (at least in the US). My guess is that the "complaints" are coming from (anti) "family" groups like the American Family Association and Focus in the Family who coordinate mass mailings to companies to ban porn.

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