With more and more airlines jumping on the in-flight WiFi bandwagon, the restrictions on the service are getting ever greater.
It was always the case that in-flight voice over IP (VoIP) services such as Skype would be blocked – if only because they would negatively impact the revenue gained from the extremely expensive in-flight 'phones most airlines offer – but according to news over on the Wired blog
the airlines are planning to block pornographic content, too.
The first airline to officially implement filtering specifically to counter the apparent epidemic of porn-perusing passengers is American Airlines, which has stated it is to “implement technology to filter pornographic content over it's [sic] Gogo in-flight Internet service.
” It is thought that the decision has come about, at least in part, due to objections from cabin crew who didn't wish to have to act as the in-flight morality police should someone start getting their daily dose of grot at 30,000 feet.
Indeed, Corey Caldwell of the Association of Flight Attendants has said that members of his group are “on board to provide security and safety for passengers, not to monitor their Internet usage. We're glad the airlines have responded to our concerns and to those of passengers.
One particular incident that is being used to justify the requirement for blocking occurred in March of this year when a woman from Texas filed suit
against American Airlines after the company failed to prevent a man from moving into a seat next to her whilst she slept and began “staring at her as he masturbated
.” While obviously distressing – and an example of the fact that some people really do have no working sense of shame – it's worth mentioning that Internet pornography was in no way involved in the case: indeed, the incident would have happened regardless of whether in-flight WiFi was offered or not.
In the end, it's all about the scope: so long as the blocking only goes after the true pornography sites, I can't see too many complaints – after all, who wants to look at that sort of thing while surrounded by strangers and with absolutely no privacy? Should the blocking extend to other realms, however – such as, of the top of my head, airline complaint sites, competing carriers flight information, YouTube, torrent sites, or simply websites with Arabic text? – then I think some serious questions need to be raised about how much control an ISP has over the Internet feed it provides its customers, no matter how transitory.
Are you pleased that your delicate sensibilities are being protected in-flight, or should airlines offer an unmodified Internet feed or else not bother in the first place? Share your thoughts over in the forums.