Because the world is backwards..
Because the world is backwards..
This week, EFF has seen censorship stories move closer and closer to home — first Iran, then the UK, and now San Francisco, an early locus of the modern free speech movement. Operators of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) shut down cell phone service to four stations in downtown San Francisco yesterday in response to a planned protest. Last month, protesters disrupted BART service in response to the fatal shooting of Charles Blair Hill by BART police on July 3rd. Thursday’s protest failed to materialize, possibly because the disruption of cell phone service made organization and coordination difficult.
Early reports indicated that BART cut off cell phone service by approaching carriers directly and asking them to turn service off. Later statements by James Allison, deputy chief communications officer for BART, assert “BART staff or contractors shut down power to the nodes and alerted the cell carriers” after the fact. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile have not yet made comment as to whether or not they were complicit in the shutdown.
Obviously, we’d like to know exactly what the carriers said to BART, but many other unanswered questions remain as well. Was pulling the plug on people’s phones a quick, on-the-spot decision, or part of a protest-response plan vetted by BART’s lawyers? Who decided that blocking all cellphone calls at these BART stations was the right response to news that there might be a protest? Were the carriers ever in the loop about this plan or action? Who decided that the news of this planned protest justified the shutdown? How do we know this isn’t going to happen again?
Many people have been writing us to ask what we thought of the BART shutdown of cell service in response to rumors of protests on the evening of Thursday, August 11th. Be sure to check out (and spread) our facebook invite for Monday’s action in response to BART’s cell phone blackout.
On Thursday, like many of you, we watched the bars on our phones disappear as we entered BART stations around the Bay Area. But to be honest, we didn’t give it much of a second thought. We’ve grown accustomed to the ridiculous and intrusive security measures BART enacts to try to stifle our voices. We’ve since taken a lot of comfort in the fact that people (around the world!) are realizing how screwed up this particular transit agency is. Allow us to lend our perspective to the issue, as organizers who have spent the last 3 years trying to bring accountability and respect for civil rights to an organization that knows nothing about either of those things.
With a hat tip to whoever coined the tag #MuBARTek, let’s talk about some ways in which the decision makers at BART are uniquely pathetic. Yes, we mean that seriously, even Mubarak could teach BART administrators a few things about how to be a decent human being.
(BART police officers are out in force Thursday to prevent any disruptions from a protest sponsored by “No Justice, No BART” group. The protest did not materialize during the evening commute.)
(08-12) 14:49 PDT Oakland —
BART officials acknowledged this afternoon that they shut down cell phone and wireless data service in its downtown San Francisco stations to disrupt a planned protest. Their announcement sparked denunciations from civil libertarians and the apparent threat of a cyber-attack on the BART website.
Official statement from BART about service blackout on platforms http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2011/news20110812.aspx