AT&T blocks Pearl Jam's Bush slam

Eddie Vedder sang "George Bush, leave this world alone" -- but AT&T cut the lyric from its webcast. By mistake, it says.

Published August 8, 2007 9:50PM (EDT)

Anyone who was at Sunday's Pearl Jam show closing the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago would have seen the band in a political mood. Eddie Vedder invited an injured Iraq war soldier up to the stage and called on the audience to work for peace in the Middle East. And in the middle of a performance of "Daughter," Vedder sang "George Bush, leave this world alone" and "George Bush find yourself another home" to the tune of "Another Brick in the Wall."

But if you were at home listening to the show on the Webcast being provided by AT&T, you would have missed those lines. As the band writes on its site, the Web transmission cut out the protest lines. AT&T says its monitor did so by mistake -- what a strangely precise and politically convenient mistake!

The band says the company's actions highlight the need for action on "network neutrality" -- the fight for regulations prohibiting broadband firms from making decisions about what content is and is not allowed on their networks. AT&T is currently fighting network neutrality, helping the NSA spy on Americans, and developing a way for Hollywood to police the Internet.

In a press release, Gigi Sohn, the president of the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, says:

How can we trust a company that promises not to interfere with content on the Internet when it has its corporate finger on the button to cut off political criticisms it doesn't like? The admitted censoring of a Pearl Jam performance is just one more reason why content should be protected against the actions of a company looking out for itself, rather than for consumers and the free flow of information over the Internet.... We hope the FCC and Congress take note.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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