Reversing course, Verizon Wireless on Thursday said it will allow an abortion rights group to use its mobile network for a sign-up text messaging program.
The announcement came a day after the Basking Ridge-based unit of Verizon Communications Inc. said it had denied a request by Naral Pro-Choice America for the program.
"The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect, and we have fixed the process that led to this isolated incident," Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson said in a statement.
"Upon learning about this situation, senior Verizon Wireless executives immediately reviewed the decision and determined it was an incorrect interpretation of a dusty internal policy," Nelson said. "That policy, developed before text messaging protections such as spam filters adequately protected customers from unwanted messages, was designed to ward against communications such as anonymous hate messaging and adult materials sent to children."
The program by Naral, based in Washington, D.C., lets people sign up to receive its text messages by punching in a message to a five-digit number. Known as "short codes," the five-digit numbers have become a popular way to get updates on everything from sports to politics to entertainment news.
Other leading wireless carriers have accepted Naral's request to use their networks.
Nelson on Wednesday had said that abortion was among topics barred from mass distribution based on the company's code of content, but noted that the code had been developed "before text-messaging became a mass-market phenomenon."
Naral president Nancy Keenan said Thursday that the organization was distressed by the company's original denial of Naral's request.
"This is where you have a corporation that is censoring free speech," Keenan said. "That is the issue here that is pretty frightening in a democracy."
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