Based on an article from AVN
As video programming becomes widely available for cell phones, major U.S. wireless carriers are quietly setting strict decency standards for their content partners in an effort to stave off criticism from nutters and regulators. Many of the rules go
far beyond those set by federal regulators for television and radio.
The rules, which bar sexually explicit or graphic content, have sparked concern among media providers. Some have already been forced to alter or remove hip-hop ringtones, video clips or other material that wireless operators considered offensive. The wireless
industry trade group, CTIA-The Wireless Association, issued broad content guidelines in November, but largely left it to the carriers to implement their own policies.
The Verizon Wireless standards were described in a document provided by a person in the wireless industry. Verizon Wireless declined to comment on the document but confirmed it has "very specific" content rules. According to the document, the
Verizon Wireless rules cover all content, text, music, pictures, video, audio, games.
The guidelines divide visual images of women into several categories, describing what is acceptable. For example, in the "Lingerie" category, prohibited visuals include "nipple shadow" and "see-through underwear." For
the category of "Medium Shot Rear Nude -- Female," the rules allow "a full rear view but not with legs up or apart." As for men, the guidelines admonish that a "penis must not appear erect underneath clothing."
A list of prohibited words is even more exhaustive, with 83 specific entries. It covers body parts as well as a number of terms describing sexual intercourse. The creators of the standards also banned any combinations of these words or alternate spellings,
and they reserved the right to update the document regularly. There are also several general categories of banned content, such as "glorification or promotion of tobacco, alcohol or drug use."
Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson says the standards are intended to protect customers from offensive content and protect Verizon Wireless's brand image.
Verizon Wireless's rules are a far cry from the anything-goes Internet, where attempts at speech restrictions have run into constitutional challenges, and there is a risk that they could backfire, alienating teen and other customers looking for edgy content.
Verizon Wireless is betting that its strict controls will put parents, who usually pay their kids' cellphone bills, and other customers at ease using its data and media services. Such usage currently accounts for about 10% of U.S. carriers' revenue.
Cingular Wireless, a joint venture of AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp., has also issued guidelines for content, generally barring profanity, nudity, sexually graphic images, violence and hate speech. In addition, the company is developing restricted programming
for children under the age of 12 that will be introduced this summer.
According to a document used to brief Cingular's content partners in March, the Cingular Safe filter won't allow music with parental advisory labels, or ringtones that aren't based on radio-edited versions of songs. A list of "restricted"
words runs the gamut from explicit body-part references to the words "condom" and "lesbian." Images "depicting or insinuating nudity or partial nudity," including photos from Maxim and Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue,
would be restricted. In the video space, Cingular Safe would generally allow movie content that is rated "G" or "PG" and TV content that is rated "G," "TV-Y," "TV-Y7," and "PG."
The Federal Communications Commission has authority under federal law to police indecent content on broadcast TV and radio on the theory that the public airwaves should be looked after in the public interest. The agency's broad standard bars obscene material
at all times and material depicting "sexual or excretory" organs or activities during hours that children are likely to be viewing.
Major media entertainment companies already have to comply with FCC standards and the internal standards of the major television networks. The wireless world adds a new layer of complexity. There are some instances where content that would be permissible
on television, a scantily clad woman in a bikini, for example, might not pass muster with some of the cellular carriers, people in the media industry say.