Current Affairs

Virgin and Vodafone respond to claims of blocking gay websites

Jessica Geen September 14, 2010
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Mobile phone networks Virgin and Vodafone have responded to complaints that they block gay news, travel and information websites.

The companies are two of several named by readers for blocking gay content as offensive or inappropriate for children.

Virgin’s network is provided by T-Mobile, which was named by scores of our readers as denying access to gay websites which contain no nudity or adult content.

A Virgin spokeswoman said: “We are working with our network provider to understand how certain sites seem to be incorrectly blocked from viewing through our mobile service.

“Our policy is only to block content with adult themes, imagery or topics to ensure minors that have been given mobile phones by their parents aren’t inadvertently exposed to material their parents may have concerns over.

“Whilst this investigation continues, should a customer wish to have this content block lifted, they can do so with ease either by contacting customer services or by selecting this option themselves through the ‘Your Account’ control panel on our website. We apologise for any inconvenience.”

A Vodafone spokeswoman said that customers should have no trouble accessing gay websites.

She said: “The only sites we block automatically are those on the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) list of child abuse sites. We do classify a number of sites as only suitable for 18+. Customers need to give proof of age and the bar can be lifted.

“However, is not classified as ‘over 18’ and Vodafone apply no bar to accessing this site. It should be possible to access from any Vodafone mobile. The same applies to Pink Paper and UK Gay News – no bar applies. ”

Last week, T-Mobile and O2 said they were investigating complaints. 3 Mobile has not yet responded to requests for comment.

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.

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.

Some readers, including those under the age of 18, have complained that the blocks could be damaging to young people who wish to seek information and advice about their sexuality in private.

One reader, Steven Allport, told us how he visited his local O2 shop and told staff that he was over 18 and wished to view blocked gay websites.

He said that staff told him the blocks were in place to “protect children”, with one salesman saying he did not wish his six-year-old son to view gay websites by mistake.

Mr Allport said he argued that the O2 website allows customers of any age to download erotic pictures of women and his phone was eventually de-barred.

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