Wireless Group: Radiation Warnings Will 'Stoke Fear'

Industry association says Berkeley's cellphone warning violates First Amendment
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2015 11:01 AM CDT
Wireless Group: Radiation Warnings Will 'Stoke Fear'
Your pocket may not be the best place for your phone.   (Shutterstock)

Last month, the city council in Berkeley, Calif., unanimously approved a measure that would require all cellphones sold within the city to come with a warning notice that informs consumers about radiation exposure. But a wireless industry trade group is now suing the city, saying that the warning violates sellers' First Amendment rights by forcing them to distribute a message they don't believe, the Los Angeles Times reports. The notice is "misleading, controversial, and government-crafted," reads the federal complaint filed Monday by CTIA–the Wireless Association, the Hill reports. The group adds that the warning, set to go into effect June 25, gives off an erroneous message that will "stoke fear in consumers about the dangers of cellphones."

The warning doesn't explicitly say cellphone radiation will cause harm, the site notes. Instead, it takes the "just sayin'" approach, mentioning that the government sets federal guidelines for radio frequency exposure and then adding that if a consumer puts a cellphone too close to his or her body (say, in a pocket or inside a bra) while the phone is on and connected to wireless networks, those exposure limits could be surpassed; it also notes "this potential risk is greater for children." A Berkeley councilman tells the San Francisco Chronicle the language in the notice was picked up right from the warnings in product manuals put out by cellphone manufacturers. Meanwhile, a law professor from Harvard has offered to give the city legal advice and defend the ordinance pro bono because he thinks companies are wielding the First Amendment as "a bullying tool," as the Contra Costa Times puts it. (San Francisco took on a similar battle against the industry in 2013—and lost.)

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