McDonald's lifts blocks on some gay websites

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 18:45 11/01/2011

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McDonald's has begun allowing access to a number of gay-related websites from its free Wi-Fi service, but is sticking by its ban of a leading gay news website.

The fast food chain faced the anger of the gay community after denying access to gay-related websites on a new free Wi-Fi service at its restaurants.

The service, installed in branches nationwide in December, saw McDonald's claim it was now the largest free internet provider in New Zealand.

But the service filtered a number of sites it deems to fall outside its "family friendly" policy. This saw access blocked to a number gay and lesbian-related sites.

The ban has sparked anger from a community who feel McDonald's are imposing a "censorship of gay-themed sites".

Last night McDonald's began opening up the service, removing blocks on a number of websites including Rainbow Youth and Agender websites, as well as the website for New Zealand Family Planning

However, so far it is sticking by a block on GayNZ.

"McDonald's is struggling with some of the content, for example some of third party advertising,'' communications manager Christine Dennis said in an email.

"Some advertisements are sexually explicit and they do not meet our 'family or child friendly' criteria.''

The company had offered to meet with the website's editor "to explore whether there is a mutually acceptable way to move forward''.

McDonald's apologised for any offence but said it would "actively discriminate" against access to sexually explicit or pornographic material in its restaurants.

GayNZ is a news and information site for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. It was a finalist in the "investigative journalism" section of the Qantas Media Awards last year, and was ranked the most popular Lifestyle-Gay and Lesbian site by Hitwise in its most recent survey.

The website reported complaints pouring in from people unable to access certain sites, including the NZ Aids foundation site, Bro Online and the Family Planning web page.

It quoted Wellingtonian Julz Darroch as saying the blocks "shocked" her.

"Just when we think we can get used to being treated as equals in society, and in the main centres at least, something like this comes along," Darroch said.

"Our being lesbian or gay, or wanting to be in contact with our friends and communities, should not be an issue for the likes of McDonald's."

A check revealed a number of other gay-related sites such as graygay.com, lesbian.co.nz and daily.gay.com did not work.

However, Avert.org, a site for young gay people, and a number of sites with articles containing sex advice could be accessed.

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A Wikipedia article on the Karma Sutra could not, and neither did the men's magazine site Askmen.com.

- Stuff

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