In recent weeks, both American Airlines and Delta Airlines have announced that their in-flight wireless Internet services will include a filtering service to keep passengers from viewing porn on their laptops.
I admit it, I'm torn.
Porn proponents such as Violet Blue, in the San Francisco Chronicle, make all the correct points -- that nothing's stopping people from looking at pornography they bring on their hard disks now, or even books and magazines; that imperfect filtering systems can block access to legitimate sites; and who's to say what's pornography anyway. And all these are valid.
On the other hand, I think about being in a middle seat, pressed up against two businessmen with their respective laptops and poor control of their personal space...ewww.
Other fans of the plan include flight attendants, who otherwise would have to referee the situation, and parents, who are concerned about what their children might see. And while I'm typically not a fan of the But Think of the Children rhetorical device, it has some validity
in this case, where it could be difficult to prevent children from seeing what's on their neighbors' screens.
While the plans for wifi service themselves have received some press attention, it's difficult to find official information about the bans. American Airlines talks about wifi on three of its New York flights, but doesn't mention the ban. Aircell, the provider of the service for American and Delta -- as well as for Virgin Atlantic and Air Canada, which expect to offer it later -- doesn't mention it, either, though a video on "in-flight etiquette" reminds people that they are in public and not to shock their neighbors.