01/12/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
How would you like a Big Mac while reading stories on LezGetReal? Well, in New Zealand’s McDonald’s, you can’t. While the world-wide fast food chain is trying to repair relations with the LGBT Community in New Zealand, it has been noted by members of GayNZ.com that they were blocked from accessing LGBT news sites at the restaurant chain’s wi-fi network. Those sites were not alone as others, like Family Planning, were also filtered out.
The fast food chain launched the wi-fi service in December within 132 restaurants, and claims to offer the largest free internet service in New Zealand. Wellington lesbian Julz Darroch, however, noticed that the service is censored when she tried to access GayNZ.com. She has since said that she is disappointed in McDonald’s and called their actions homophobic. The site’s content editor was also surprised about being blocked. Jay Bennie said “If someone is jumping to knee-jerk reaction that gay is just about sex, lesbian is just about sex, transgender is just about sex, then they’re showing their ignorance and foisting their ignorance on the general public.”
According to 3 News out of New Zealand:
3 News checked restaurants in Auckland and Wellington and found that as well as GayNZ.co.nz, McDonald’s had blocked rainbowyouth.org.nz – which supports young people questioning their sexual and gender identity – dating site nzdating.com and Family Planning’s website familyplanning.org.nz.
Similar sites with gay themes, however, were still accessible such as gay dating site broonline.com, news website aaronandandy.com and Big Gay Out festival sponsors getiton.co.nz.
For its part, McDonald’s says that they are a family chain and are using the software filter Bluecoat to block sites they deem to be inappropriate. Managing director Mark Hawthorn said “We do have a responsibility to make sure any information available on our system is child friendly and we will go a long way to protect that.” Which apparently means that gay news is unacceptable, but gay dating sites are no. The fast food chain did agree to review websites on a case-by-case basis, but that all links and advertisements must be acceptable.
NetSafe research manager John Fenaughty said:
“Filters work by blocking a website that the administrator chooses, so essentially all companies and service providers can choose which go on the blocked list and which don’t.”
Rainbow Youth, which is a website for teens questioning their sexuality, said that their material is in no way inappropriate for a young person to access. They and GayNZ.com will be approaching the restaurant change to have their sites unblocked.