Scores of PinkNews.co.uk readers have complained that their mobile phone providers block access to gay websites – with five of the major companies implicated.
Last week, we revealed that T-Mobile blocks gay news, travel and support websites which contain no offensive content, including PinkNews.co.uk.
Since then, Virgin Mobile, 3, O2 and Vodafone have also been flagged by readers as blocking gay websites. The problem does not affect all users, as a small number of readers have emailed to state that they can easily access gay content on their phones. Most have been iPhone users.
Some readers have reported that websites such as Stonewall.org.uk, which offers advice on issues such as homophobic bullying, are also blocked.
The two issues are the blocking of all gay content (including adult content) for those who can prove they are over 18, and the blocking of gay websites which contain no adult content for those under 18.
Sixteen-year-old reader Harriet Bettany told us: “I’m with Virgin Mobile and am unable to access most LGBT-related websites. Amongst those I can’t access are the Queer Youth Network and Gay Youth Corner, sites meant for under 18s.
“Other sites I visit frequently and can’t access on my mobile are After Ellen and The Lesbian and Gay Foundation, I can however get onto PinkNews.co.uk. I’m 16 and don’t see why I should have to lie about my age to access perfectly innocent sites.”
An O2 spokeswoman said that contract customers over the age of 18 could view PinkNews.co.uk on their phones but admitted that those under the age of 18 cannot.
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She said: “Having investigated these reports we can confirm that all our post pay customers, who are not subject to parental control restrictions, can access PinkNews.co.uk.
“We understand there may be a small number of pre pay customers who cannot access the site and we are in touch with our content filtering suppliers to resolve this as a priority.”
Virgin Mobile, 3 and Vodafone had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publication.
Some of those who complained reported that they had been told that the problem was down to the Independent Mobile Classification Board (IMCB).
On Friday evening, an IMCB spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “The problem lies squarely with mobile phone providers. It’s something we 100 per cent categorically would not do. We would never even [consider blocking] PinkNews.co.uk or Stonewall.”
He added that the body would be contacting phone providers next week to ask them to review the information they are supplying customers who complain.
The owners of PinkNews.co.uk are considering whether there are grounds for a legal case.
Company secretary and solicitor to PinkNews.co.uk, Richard Cohen, said: “This might be a breach of the Equality Act and it is damaging to gay young people who need to access information about their sexuality. Clearly, they are not going to call up a customer services advisor to complain.”
Does your mobile phone provider block gay content and if so which websites are affected? Email us at [email protected]