BART Turns Off Mobile Phone Service At Station Because It Doesn't Want Protestors To Communicate

from the really-now? dept

With all the talk in the UK from politicians about shutting down mobile messaging services, it's worth pointing out that it apparently takes much less to shut down mobile service in the US at times. Jacob Appelbaum points out that BART -- the Bay Area Rapid Transit train system here in the California Bay Area -- apparently shut down all cell service at a station under the (false, as it turns out) belief that protesters were going to show up there:
As an added precaution, the agency shut off cellphone service on the station's platform. While Alkire said the tactic was an unusual measure, he said it was "a great tool to utilize for this specific purpose" given that the agency was expecting a potentially volatile situation.
That's really quite incredible, and I'm at a loss to see how that could be allowed. Because BART feared people protesting it literally shut down mobile phone service at its station? Since this particular station is underground, it has special equipment as regular cell towers don't reach the station. However, that shouldn't give BART officials the right to just turn off the service because they're unhappy that people might protest.

Filed Under: bart, free speech, mobile phones, protests, wireless
Companies: bart

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  1. icon
    Nethos (profile), 13 Aug 2011 @ 12:34am

    the fence...

    While I am usually against situations where a government or organization blocks communication in an attempt to stop speech they do not like, I feel that the devil is in the details in this case. If the cell blackout was used because officials did not want the protestor's message to be heard, then I entirely agree that they went too far. However, with a lot of protests and demonstrations there is an increased chance of violence breaking out, be it from the protestors or even other bystanders, and in a place such as an underground train station which is both full of people and rather closed off any violence can quickly escalate. So, if officials did in fact have good reason to believe that the protest could turn violent, then I believe that turning off cell communication was an effective preventative measure to ensure the safety of bystanders (I would much rather miss a text message or two than become involved in a violent protest).

    In summary, if the officials turned off cell communications because it was believed that the protest in question would likely lead to violence, then I believe it was a rather clever idea that had minimal impact on the public (as opposed to other alternatives such as shutting down the station or posting armed guards or something). However, if this was merely an attempt to prevent the message from being heard, then this was a completely condemnable act.

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