“Porn on planes”—Another urban legend fans hysteria

If you’ve been terrified by the thought of flying to grandma’s and being stuck in a middle seat next to someone enjoyed Buttbusters 3 on his laptop, you can relax. Delta, JetBlue and now American Airlines are busy censoring the internet they’re offering you up in the sky.

Like so much legislation opposing sexual rights, this is one more solution searching desperately for a problem.

The 19,000-member Association of Professional Flight Attendants recently asked American Airlines to add filters to its in-flight Wi-Fi access to prevent passengers from viewing porn and other inappropriate websites. Although a union representative says that attendants and passengers have raised “a lot of complaints” over the issue, the Association couldn’t produce examples of actual problems.

Actually, in-flight censorship now starts on the ground. Earlier this year, the Denver International Airport started blocking access on its free Wi-Fi network to Web sites that officials deemed offensive.

The Denver Post points out that some of those questionable sites include Vanity Fair and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue—both of which you can buy at airport newsstands.

So what airports and airlines judge “inappropriate”—my blog? Your blog? Sites relating to breast cancer, gay rights, the Daily Show? And what about the rest of what people do on their laptops? I’ll be working on a talk I’m giving to social workers in Albuquerque next time I fly; what if the person looking over my shoulder is offended by my “Diagnosis & Treatment of Sexual Issues?”

Considering the billions of miles flown by U.S. passengers every year, we’d all know if there were an actual problem about in-flight porn. We all talk about the actual problems we experience up there—the pathetic food, dirty seats, lack of leg-room, hairy arms pushing us off the armrest. Anyone ever see—or know someone who saw—Chester the child molester up there?

Every flier knows that “Federal regulations prohibit smoking or disabling smoke detectors in the lavatories.” Undoubtedly, censors would like to add “and no masturbating in those private little places, either.” Might as well prohibit thinking about sex there as well.

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