Thursday, 9 September 2010

Phone Operator blocking LGBT Sites

Pink News reported last week that mobile phone operator T-mobile was blocking access to LGBT websites for customers under 18. This was based on complaints from customers, who complained that they were unable to access sites for gay venues, bars, travel companies – or even cultural or news services such as Pink News itself.



This is totally offensive and discriminatory. It is reasonable to block access to adult services, including sexually explicit content or bar advertising to under –18’s: but does the service equally block other bar advertising? To block gay news or cultural services purely because they are gay is to make the common but entirely incorrect assumption that “gay” is necessarily sexually obsessed. At about this time last year, Amazon books made a similar assumption in its screening out of all LGBT titles as “adult” – and suffered a powerful backlash.

The company initially took some time to respond to the complaints, but they have now provided a response to Pink News, stating that they are investigating, but “would never” exclude content solely because it is gay-related, but  only if it contravenes adult guidelines.

"T-Mobile is currently investigating this issue. To be clear, we would never actively block material based on sexual orientation. It’s possible that the sites were blocked because they contain advertising or other content that falls outside of the Content Lock system which helps prevent children from accessing 18-rated material. This is done in accordance with a voluntary code that mobile operators agreed to in 2004."

The provider's Content Lock system, is automatically set on phones to filter out 'offensive' material. Users must confirm they are over 18 to remove the restrictions. Information on how adults can remove Content Lock can be found on the operator's website.

This just doesn’t cut it.  Pink News is just one of the news sites which has been blocked, and as the site itself confirms, is totally without the kind of adult content that should legitimately be screened for younger users.

T-mobile must be reminded is that “would never” is simply not the same as “has never”. It may not have been their intention, but it is clear that they are using a Content Lock system which does in practice block content purely on the grounds of orientation, preventing youth access to gay sites which are in no way adult related – yet simultaneously letting through some clearly pornographic heterosexual material.

“Gay” does not equate with sexual licence. Young people of all orientations experience a bewildering time in adolescence, coming to terms with hormonal and physical changes, and learning to deal responsibly with their sexual interests and needs. Young straights have numerous systems in place to help them, from role models in families and popular culture, to formal guidance in schools and churches. Young gay people do not. Without access to good guidance on what it means to be young, gay – and responsible, it is all too easy for them to yield to one of the two extremes of gay youth: self-hatred, depression, and even suicide, or its opposite, a complete rejection of all conventional standards of personal morality – succumbing to the very hedonistic lifestyle that the moralistic censors are presumably trying to prevent.

T-mobile and other phone operators, just like Amazon and other booksellers, should be encouraging, not blocking, access to responsible LGBT sites. Its the best way to safeguard the gay, lesbian and gender queer youth they are claiming to protect. 



Customers of T-Mobile have complained that the mobile phone network bars access to gay websites. T-Mobile, one of the UK's largest mobile phone networks, appears to block gay-related content as unsuitable for under-18s. This includes gay websites which contain no nudity or offensive content. The provider has a system called Content Lock, which is automatically set on phones to filter out 'offensive' material. Users must confirm they are over 18 to remove the restrictions. is among the websites affected, while others include gay travel websites, bar and club listings and gay culture websites. Bryan Manley-Green, who is with T-Mobile, told "This must be in breach of the Equality Act and it must be affecting gay businesses." Mr Manley-Green said that after a lengthy conversation with a T-Mobile customer complaints advisor and assistance from staff at a local store, he was able to access gay websites on his phone. Several other readers contacted us about the problem, including Darcy C-Oshimida, who also could not access gay websites through her T-Mobile phone. She said: "I think this is ridiculous and assumes that anything gay must be inappropriate for children. I believe you are losing a lot of readers this way, and important young readers at that." T-Mobile did not return repeated calls for comment.

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