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Exclusive: Major charity Oxfam blocks staff from accessing gay news sites like PinkNews

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  1. Long Tim PN Reader 23 Aug 2013, 4:31pm

    Possibly because you carry adverts for porn. So that makes the decision fair enough.

  2. Send an email to

    1. Why? They have already explained it, in the article. And why are PN waiting for a reply or press release when PN have already printed the explanation here.

      Calm down everyone. We need to pick our targets a lot better than this.

  3. Robert in S. Kensington 23 Aug 2013, 4:35pm

    If it’s a technical error, then hopefully Oxfam will fix it but if not, then they’d better be prepared for some damaging negative publicity and a reduction in contributions from the gay public.

    1. Exactly right, I donate a lot of my un wanted items and books to Oxfam and unless they sort this I will take my items elsewhere and I will get my friends to do the same.

      Charity begins at home…..unless you’re gay!

      1. Ann Taylor 23 Aug 2013, 5:20pm

        We weren’t allowed to browse the internet at work – why should they be? Doesn’t matter what the site is

        1. Break times? They do exist, not all companies act like hitlers

        2. Paul Brownsey 23 Aug 2013, 5:33pm

          Most staff in Oxfam shops are volunteers. They don’t get paid.

  4. Whilst I really hope that this is some over zealuos IT security issue rather than an Oxfam policy matter. It still begs the question WHY any LGBT / sexuality site STILL just lumps in with beign considerd as some form of porn when it comes to IT blocks!

    1. That There Other David 23 Aug 2013, 5:18pm

      Different URL filtering products categorise web sites differently. The filter we use here classifies Pink News as a News site for example. Either way, the categories are dynamically applied to the web proxies or UTM firewalls without manual input from the IT department. The number of website changes that happen globally on a daily basis make that level of manual intervention impossible.

      Oxfam’s IT department do need to chat to their vendor though. I don’t recognise the block page format.

    2. I think it’s because a lot of these things are developed in the US, where attitudes towards discussing sexuality are often Victorian.

      They view any sites discussing LGBT issues as something not deemed suitable for the workplace.

      It’s funny that the world generally considers the UK to be more prudish, when in actual fact the USA is far more childish when it comes to sexuality.

  5. Ann Taylor 23 Aug 2013, 4:51pm

    It could be they just want their staff to work – not waste time browsing the internet whatever kind of sites!

    1. Break times? They do exist, not all companies act like hitlers

    2. I don’t think other news sites were blocked.

    3. If that’s the case, a company limits workstations to being on a filtered intranet, without access to the wider internet.

      You don’t waste a year of your working life filtering out individual sites, or designating individual sites as being accessible, you create an intranet where the information you want your staff to have access to exists already.

  6. in all likelihood they probably use a standard filter that has a pre-built list of things to block, far too many companies have them and dont update them themselves very often which they should since what they block is often a very broad range of things, the idea being that you unblock the things you do want to be able to get through

  7. Most likely an honest mistake. It’ll just be IT going through the predefined category blocks on the proxy server and absently ticking anything that looks disagreeable (in this case I’ll put money they’ve just confused “sex” with “sexuality”). One large employer who shall go unnamed explicitly had LGBT as a blocked category until it was pointed out to them in quite strong terms that doing so was not only inappropriate but also almost certainly unlawful.

    1. That There Other David 24 Aug 2013, 4:53pm

      IT don’t set these policies, they just apply what HR and the Legal Dept. tell them to apply. The days when IT departments were a law to themselves are long gone.

  8. I’m a little confused why Oxfam have not yet responded to PinkNews on this. That’s a Public Relations facepalm right there.

    They know they have bad press on this right now, surely someone there can pick up the phone and explain the same thing directly to PN? It takes ten minutes, and resolves any bad press within moments.

    This is seemingly just a tech issue, and easily fixed. I don’t think it’s deliberate. It’s just the communication failure on the part of Oxfam responding to PN that I think is an issue here.

    It seems almost deliberately dismissive.

    1. To be fair, the first they heard of this was coming up on half past 4 on a Friday afternoon. They’ve responded via Twitter, where they were contacted, but a properly drafted, proofread, accurate press response will take more than ten minutes. Certainly longer than it took to write this article, since it will involve fact checking.

  9. institutional homophobia, nothing more and nothing less. If they ban this site and not the BBC for example it can be challenged as they are breaking the 2010 Equality Act. On what grounds do they single this site out from BBC and SkyNews for example? TIME TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION!

    1. Oh get a grip.

      These things happen all the time with web filters; many websites get randomly misclassified and they just need re-classified correctly.

      It happens to every company who uses web filters.

    2. It’s homophobia on the part of the web filtering system, not Oxfam, since the sites were accessible a couple of months ago and it’s not just LGBT stuff that’s been caught in it. I do wish PN had actually used more of the details I gave them. Or had asked me if it was okay to run a story on it, since I would have at least made them wait until Oxfam had been alerted to the issue and had a chance to fix it, rather than trumpeting this about as a despotic scheme with no response in the ten minutes or so since they’d been told about it.

  10. My school still blocks the word gay, calling it pornography. Once it even blocked homosexual. Had to constantly type same-sex into google while I was doing my English essay research last year.

    1. Was ‘straight’ blocked as well? If not, I’d say this is a clear case of unlawful discrimination.

    2. Zetsumei Ikari 24 Aug 2013, 6:49pm

      Just tell your IT support they should unblock it and then if they don’t formally complain.

  11. Hi. I’m the anonymous Oxfam volunteer who got miffed with this and tweeted about it. Pink News then got in touch with me, asking for more details in order to get in touch with upper office Oxfam and get this sorted.

    Instead, boom, news story!

    There is no story here. Oxfam have done nothing wrong except use a stupid firewall. A couple of months ago I could access LGBT news sites (during my lunch break whilst volunteering, Ann Taylor, and in accordance with Oxfam’s Internet Usage Policy), but now no longer can. It’s an IT issue, not a news story. There is no attempt at discrimination. Trust me, my persecution complex is enough to notice if there were.

    It’s an irritation, that’s all. It needs fixing, and it illustrates perfectly what will happen when Cameron’s new Internet opt-in policies come into play. Direct your ire there whilst Oxfam fixes this, and please don’t stop donating to or buying from Oxfam as a result of this. We work very hard to get a lot of aid out there.

  12. This is a shame because Oxfam benefits from being a non religious charity. People donate to Oxfam because they don’t want to promote anti-gay Evangelical charities like World Vision and Unicef.

    Give to Doctors Without Borders now?

    1. Please see my above comment for a more accurate version of this “story”. I’m the volunteer who spotted the problem and gave details to PN when they contacted me about it so they could help get it fixed and talk to head office with details. At no point was a surprise exclusive story mentioned to me, and I can’t bear the thought that I’ve inadvertently put people off Oxfam over an IT issue that’s been blown out of proportion.

  13. Cameron’s system-wide porn filter will make this kind of story a daily routine. Get used to it – it’s going to be so bad that Marcia Gay Harden’s website (if she has one) will get universally blocked.

  14. Zetsumei Ikari 24 Aug 2013, 6:47pm

    They are using smoothwall or dansguardian, i work in a secondary school with the same system and i’ve noticed that the filtering has pinknews under pornography.

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