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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Flying The Anti-Porn Skies

Violet Blue wants to know, if airline Wi-Fi is censored, who wants it?

Getting ready for my latest flight out of SFO, I ran down my checklist of must-have carry-on items in my bag. For the long flight to Los Angeles, I'd need a 16 oz. bottle of Liquid Silk, latex gloves, my raincoat, my Vibrating Hugh Jackman Realistic Dong, a pack of ten C batteries, my trusty fur-lined leopard ankle cuffs, and a blindfold. The blindfold was for napping. Since my airline now sells in-flight Wi-Fi, I could add my laptop to the list, eschew all the DVDs I usually lug on the plane, and instead of watching "Penetration Impossible #4," I'd be flying the friendly skies crammed between my seat-mates and cruising the latest videos uploaded to YouPorn.com. After checking my e-mail, Twittering a complaint about the overpriced Wi-Fi, doing a guest blog post for Laughing Squid about the overpriced Wi-Fi and watching the Dow have another bipolar episode, of course.

I am a porn consumer. And from San Francisco, it's like a double-whammy of pervery; everyone knows we porn users just can't control ourselves. Thank goodness the airlines - despite having no complaints of porn being accessed over their new Wi-Fi services - are preemptively blocking and blacklisting Web sites. Otherwise, my flight would be a trip to hell in the skies for everyone sitting next to one of us porn watchers, because, you know, all that online porn consumption makes us into drooling lunatics who no longer know right from wrong.

At least that seems to be the logic when you peel back the layer of reason behind American Airlines' recent decision to reverse their originally stated no-filtering policy for in-flight Wi-Fi and announce that they'll be implementing "technology" to filter pornographic content over its Gogo Internet service. Seeing that on the Gogo Web site they also have Air Canada, Delta and Virgin Airlines listed as upcoming partners, we can expect to be nannied from here to Internet infinity so no one in the seats behind you have to tell you to turn down the volume on your VoD stream of "White Men Can't Hump." Which, if you've seen it, gives new meaning to the concept of "red eye flight."

Despite the fact that there haven't been any complaints thus far, the Association of Flight Attendants is hailing the decision they see as one less thing they have to police on board, and it makes sense - until you think about the fact that people can have and view porn on their computers even without access to the evil scary child-eating unfiltered Internet, or a European fashion magazine could have more exposed sexy nipples than erosblog.com and thesexcarnival.com rubbed together. Or that someone might - gasp! - read a book. One with sexual or pornographic content. There are so few of those out there. At least we can rest easy on our "comfortable flight" safe in the knowledge that no one reads books anymore.

Poking holes in filtering Internet Wi-Fi access as a strategy to prevent in-flight inappropriateness is easy enough, but looking at the implementation of Wi-Fi censorware will make even the sweetest sexy librarian want to throw the book at the Association of Flight Attendants. Historically, filtered Internet access doesn't have a very good track record with subjects like sexual health Web sites (including the famously filtered breast cancer Web site kerfluffle), nor a healthy relationship with LGBT and sexual minority Web sites. And when you think that just last year Google's AdWords was putting sites with the reclaimed word "dyke" in the child porn bucket by accident, you're going to have a lot more incidents of air rage on your hands when the businessperson who just paid $12.95 plus fees for a few hours of access can't find the address of the non-porn business they're supposed to go to when they land. Or can't work remotely because their company's Web site (or blogging interface) is inexplicably blocked. Or, we just all get cranky because we can't visit our favorite entertainment blog because it once flashed a nipple or reported on an obscenity case, triggering the nannyware to auto-blacklist it.

Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to tell customers at point of purchase that they're getting only part of the Internet for their dollars (or one Euro), and provide a list of sites they won't be able to access before they click "submit payment." But then again, we're talking about an airline that just banned Internet phone service Skype for no real reason other than because it competed with airlines' own expensive in-flight phone services. Talk about nonconsensual power play; I guess that's great if your fetish is being a captive consumer.

It's not just the shady peepshow-style implementation of the Wi-Fi filtering that's got my airline dollars feeling a little shrinkage from the cold eye on my browsing habits; it's the people pimping the notion of filtering to the airlines in the first place. According to Wired, "Girls Against Porn lobbied American to install filters, urging the airline to consider the harm inappropriate content might have on passengers and citing a particularly disgusting incident that has resulted in a $200,000 lawsuit against American (Airlines). 'The airlines risk having this happen repeatedly if the Internet isn't filtered,' Girls Against Porn said in a statement." And the Texas Star-Telegram tells us that, "(...) several groups, including the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, expressed concerns that children could be exposed to pornographic Web sites by adjacent passengers. Daniel Weiss, an analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family Action, recently warned in a statement that "passengers who openly view porn where children can see it may be violating federal harmful-to-minor laws."

Never mind that the "particularly disgusting incident" where a male passenger masturbated into a female passenger's hair while she slept had absolutely nothing to do with porn. It's that because there was a sexual incident, and that sex is bad and shameful and porn is as evil as any sexual violation, that by its very nature these anti-porn groups can discredit anything sexual by nature of its very existence. Taking for granted the hurtful myths about porn consumption is the easiest way to masturbate in the dark all over any conversation regarding adult choices and consumer freedom.

Lest we forget that the point of filterware is to limit or prevent viewers from accessing anything the Wi-Fi provider considers objectionable and frequent subjects of content-control include not just sex and queer Web sites, but also topics considered "immoral", sites that discuss religion, health and politics and possibly more. This isn't a spam blocker, this is something that doesn't let you see what the authority doesn't want you to - or, whoever's pressuring them, such as the nightmare-inducing CP80 - backing anti-porn all-women-are-victims GAP or the notoriously tolerant Focus On The Family. FotF, who markets the lovely CYBERsitter filtering software that handily, blocks the National Organization for Women homepage (and any Yahoo Web search for "gay rights"). Filtering for moral or political reasons, much?

Yes, the airlines are businesses and we don't have to buy their crappy Wi-Fi. And maybe there's something inherently hot about being treated like a criminal for simply being a normal porn consumer, despite the fact that we prefer our porn behind closed doors and not while packed like cattle into overpriced seats. But next time I'm on Virgin America and I see the safety video with a two-second image of a bull sitting next to a matador, while the matador gets his seat belt figured out, and the bull is plainly reading a magazine with bright pink exposed udders on it - I really hope I can control myself. Because you know I'll have the Guy Ritchie blowup doll in my purse, ready for takeoff.

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