Now, let's put some facts to this story. San Francisco's BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system has been on the receiving end of some heavy duty public discord this summer. In July, crowds shut down three of BART's train stations as they protested the shooting of a knife-wielding transient by a BART police officer. Last week, organizers were planning another protest against the city's transit system. However, BART shut down its underground, cell phone network in select stations to prevent people from organizing activities that would negatively impact train activity.
Keep in mind, BART actually owns and controls the wireless network that services the subterranean train tunnels. It didn't have to work with a cell phone provider to jam signals or cut service. It owns the system and simply turned it off. As a result, the protest didn't happen. People were unable to organize activities in real-time, tweet the locations of BART police, or use mobile devices in any way in several train stations. That, in essence, put the kibosh on the protest before it ever started. The American Civil Liberties Union cried foul; BART defended it's actions saying protests on station platforms would put the public at risk.
Were transit authorities truly concerned about commuter safety or did they just wanted to avoid a protest? Only a few people really know the answer to that. But, if it fair to say any business must continue to offer a service that is being exploited by people who are trying to do that business harm? Of course, this issue gets stickier when we consider that BART is a service of the city of San Francisco--obviously funded by taxpayer dollars. (Note: As a result of the recent wireless shutdown, another protest has been organized for this Monday.)
What do YOU think? Is the BART action the same as the government ordering social media shutdowns in Egypt and other countries that have faced civil unrest? Should BART, or any other company, be legally obligated to maintain a service even if it goes against the business's best interests? Does it make a difference if the entity owns the service or mandates another company cut access? What if that business is affiliated with the government?
No jammed signals here! Sound off below and exercise your right to free speech!