Porn on Planes: 3 Possible Solutions

by on August 27, 2008 · 20 comments

laptop privacy filterIn-flight Internet access is finally starting to be rolled out by some carriers, and as they do so the inevitable question of what to do about objectionable material is already being debated. Surprisingly, many airlines have decided to not filter in-flight Internet access but instead rely on “peer pressure and the presence of flight attendants,” according to Tim Maxwell, Vice President of Marketing for Aircell, the company providing American’s broadband service.

But others are wondering if that’ll be enough. I share that concern. I can only imagine how ugly things will get on a flight once somebody starts streaming porn from their aisle seat. Flight attendants are going to become “fight” attendants once that happens. And you better believe that somebody in Congress is already cooking up legislation with some snappy title like “The Family Friendly Flights Act” to impose a regulatory solution. (Oh wait, a bill with that title was already introduced last year!! I wrote about it here. But that bill was just for violent movies, not Net access. So expect another measure soon mandating in-flight Net censorship).

Before things get ugly and bills start flying up on the Hill, the airlines need to think about crafting some constructive solutions to this problem. Here are three possibilities:

(1) Offer privacy screens: Airlines could allow unfettered in-flight Net access but also offer those surfing the Net complementary screen privacy filters. If needed, flight attendants could require those screens be used if a certain surfer is prompting complaints from other passengers because of what they are viewing on their laptops.

(2) Seating stipulations: Airlines could offer the back third of planes be “Net-free” and encourage parents with kids to sit back there, or vice-versa (Net surfers sit in back, kids further up).

(3) “Family-friendly” flights: Airlines could stipulate that Net access will be prohibited or tightly filtered during certain flights. That way parents with kids or other sensitive travelers could make sure to book those flights. (I made a similar proposal for cell phones on planes before.)

If airlines don’t adopt plans like this now, they will be in for some serious grief later on. All it is going to take a handful of disrespectful jerks loading up their favorite porn sites in the cabin of plane to set off a firestorm of controversy from travelers, flight attendants, and then lawmakers.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Since most laptops have DVD players, most laptop users could already bring their favorite porn DVD with them on the plane, no? But I've never heard of that happening (let alone seen it). So what makes you think users are suddenly going to start getting off in seats once they've got broadband?

  • Self Appointed Genius

    If I got on a plane and started “reading” Playboy, held out in front of me in such a way that the passengers on both sides of me could see it, what would happen?

    How is a laptop any different?

  • http://www.techliberation.com Adam Thierer

    Actually, I have seen people watching movies on portable DVDs that included some nudity, and certainly plenty of violence. But I think most people would recognize that there is a line they should not cross in terms of good taste when it comes to viewing hard-core stuff in public. So I don't mean to suggest that online porn viewing in planes is going to become some sort of mass cultural epidemic. But all it will take is a few incidents to set off a firestorm.

  • http://www.techliberation.com Adam Thierer

    Someone would probably ask you to put it away, or at least not make it so visible. And I suspect that might happen if someone starting surfing for porn on their laptops, too. And I believe most people would oblige. But, like I said in response to Berin above, all it will take is a few incidents for this sh*t to start hitting the fan and for legislation to start flying.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Rationalitate

    Have you EVER seen anybody looking at porn in public? I've seen some guy browsing erotica ads on Craigslist, but the computers were far away from each other, and there were no graphics. The human feeling of shame is enough to stop people. I doubt it'll be a problem.

  • http://bennett.com/blog Richard Bennett

    A library bond failed in Vancouver, WA (just across the river from Portland) while I lived there because a group of creationists mounted a campaign against pornsurfing in the library. They claimed that a fleeting image of nudity can damage a young young-earther for life, and that various monkey-loving elements were grooving on porn at the taxpayer's expense all day and half the night.

    I always figured most porn freaks wanted to indulge in private, so there may be lots of demand for bathroom space on the porn-enabled flights.

  • http://www.econ.canterbury.ac.nz/eric Eric Crampton

    The airlines already have plenty of incentive to offer “family friendly” flights, especially on long-haul, to segregate those with screaming kids from those without: both sets would be willing to pay extra for the separating equilibrium, but not enough (apparently) to justify the potentially lower loadings on each flight. I can't imagine that the porn incentive adds anything substantial to the one they've already got.

    I'd be willing to bet that the modal traveller is willing to pay a lot more for a seat guaranteed not to be beside a screaming baby than for a seat guaranteed not to have wireless internet or other costly mechanisms to keep Lewd from his entertainment.

  • http://blog.xflames.com Peter

    I know it's already been said, but this is no different from the other “objectionable content” already available to passengers.

    And, what no-one has said is aircraft are not public libraries, you are in a little dictatorship of the pilot, administered by the crew. If they tell you to stop doing something, for whatever reason, you better stop. It's already a Federal offence (in the US) to refuse instructions from the crew.

  • MikeRT

    The different seating arrangements won't work because parents today insist that they not make any sacrifices whatsoever for their children; they'll insist on having access everywhere, and anything they want blocked to be blocked.

  • http://techliberation.com/author/berinszoka/ Berin Szoka

    Actually, I did once see a Comic-Book-guy-lookalike “reading” Playboy on the platform at Metro Center during rush hour. Other than that (and Amsterdam), no.

  • Betty R Brent

    great article!, grats for u site :)

  • Patricia W Olson

    tu blog es excelente! te mando 770 felicitaciones!

  • http://homedepot.com Charles Boarden

    Porn on a plane. Awesome.

    Charles Boarden
    charles.boarden@homedepot.com
    Home Depot QA Mgr.

  • http://homedepot.com Charles Boarden

    mile high club with just yourself; what will technology come up with next – awesome

    Charles Boarden
    IT Manager Home Depot Atlanta

  • Pingback: no no hair removal for men amazon

  • Pingback: saints row 4 free download

  • Pingback: meubelen

  • Pingback: fantasy football

  • Pingback: anime url

  • Pingback: запалителна свещ

Previous post:

Next post: