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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 15, 2011 10:31 PM. The previous post in this blog was Ain't that America. The next post in this blog is The China syndrome, Fukushima version. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

New role for transit agencies: cell phone censor

Here's a wild one out of San Francisco. BART, the regional train system, deliberately disrupted cell phone service on its train platforms for a while last week in an effort to stop passengers from communicating with each other about a protest against police brutality. Needless to say, the move, which seems illegal in the extreme, is not being well received.

Comments (14)

So we criticize them for doing nothing... then we criticize for doing something. If you were there dealing with this crap I doubt you would be such ardent civil libertarian. Funny how you jump to the assumption that the police in the wrong.

I criticize BART for violating federal law and the First Amendment, regardless of whether the police protest had any validity.

Not sure it was illegal, since they owned the cell phone repeaters. It would be similar to turning off the PA in a city council meeting after a persons time is done or profanity is used.
I know their will be a lot of howling going on, people even think you censor them on your private blog.
If they had asked a private vendor to cut services, it may be different. It will be interesting to see how it is spun.

It is against federal statutory law for BART to turn off the repeaters. Section 333 of the Communications Act of 1934 states, "No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government."

It is also clearly unconstitutional for a state government agency -- which BART clearly is -- to turn off the system because of what people were saying on it. They can't discriminate based on content.

It's not even a close case.

What is amazing to me in this exchange of posts is how blindly some people are to give up their freedoms and rights. The war on terror is succeeding to be a war on liberty.

And thanks for clarifying the law, Jack. Some people like to assume far too much.

My guess is that someone will morph this event into a discussion about yelling fire in a crowded theater.

My analogy would be more akin to .... BART is acting like Iran or China. It's trying to limit dissent. And it is interfering with technology to stifle speech that would be dissent.

Get ready for more of this type of censorship. The top 1% do not want their gated communities invaded by the increasing number of have nots.

Bay Area residents merit the opportunity to encounter mass social disturbance, racist attacks, looting, and brutality. It is a civil right and the outcome of their social policies.

Not only did BART deprive commuters of their communications civil rights but it cheated them of an opportunity to have a vigorous and social diverse encounter with multiculturalism.

It is a tragedy that America no longer leads the way, but London has to show the appropriate way to respond to police violence. Dependency, dependency, free at last, free at last.

What about when the airlines tell us to shut down our phones every time we fly?

Section 333 of the Communications Act of 1934 states, "No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under this Act or operated by the United States Government."

Does that also mean it's illegal for me to turn off my 802.11g wireless base station becuase I don't want someone else piggybacking on it? It operates on radio frequencies licensed by the FCC and the repeater itself is authorized by the FCC.

Locally - does that mean TriMet is engaged in censorship because it does not allow cell phone providers to install repeaters in the West Hills (Robertson) Tunnel or within the Washington Park MAX station?

Fire in a crowded theater and all that, no?

I mean, what about the people caught up in amid these protesters, many of whom are well meaning, I'm sure, but many others are anarchists, pure and simple. These can be very scary, very dangerous situations -- does not BART have an obligation to protect its patrons? Check out the picture that accompanies this SF Chronicle story. Imagine being in that scene. Imagine being a mom with a little child in tow and being in that mob.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/08/16/BU8K1KNIMF.DTL

How is it "interfering" with wireless communications to turn off YOUR OWN repeaters? The first amendment doesn't give other people unfettered rights to use your property to propagate their messages. Or if someone demands to use your cell phone to make a call, are you obligated to give it to him?

Activating jammers, on the other hand, which BART didn't do (and which would have been indisputably unlawful) would be a different matter.

Mark - I'd be willing to bet that there is a contract between BART and the cell phone providers wherein BART is paid for housing the phone equipment. Now, forgive me for pointing out the obvious but the first issue is breach of contract. You do know what that is right? And the second issue is that the contract wherein the wireless equipment is leased falls under the purview of the Federal Law that Jack cited so turning it off is illegal. As illegal as if I cut any communications cables passing through a right of way on my property.

If you want to try to argue the law, at least have a clue of some basic principles.

It's not like the cell phone companies forced that equipment down BART's throat. Quite to the contrary, BART entered into a lawful agreement.

As to your question about whether or not you are obligated to let someone use your cell phone, well it depends. Go do your homework and find out why.

And don't try to play a lawyer on the internet. You don't have the background.


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