Things the First Amendment Doesn’t Say

The Washington Post carries a story about a minor dust-up between Naral Pro-Choice America and Verizon. Naral wanted to use Verizon’s mobile network to distribute a series of pro-choice text messages and Verizon said no to the group’s request before reversing itself. Personally, I think that Verizon was awfully silly to deny any group the use of its network: more users equal more money. (And, of course, given how controversial abortion is, I can’t imagine that any large private company does well to take a strong position on it either way.) So, on the initial dispute, I tend to think that Naral was right and Verizon wrong. What I find interesting is what Naral president Nancy Keenan said about the whole issue: “This is where you have a corporation that is censoring free speech. That is the issue here that is pretty frightening in a democracy.”

So, in other words, Keenan appears to believe that the first amendment gives her the right to use a private network to distribute her ideas. She believes that any denial is an affront to Democracy. By her standards, I was the victim of censorship last week when a newspaper rejected an op-ed I wrote. HBO, likewise, engages in censorship when it runs Big Love rather than, say, the 700 Club. For that matter, her logic suggests that Naral (which is, of course, itself a corporation) should allow National Right to Life to post its briefing papers on the Naral web page.