Friday, July 19, 2013

North America

Canada's largest coffee chain blocked LGBT news website from its WiFi network- apologies made
By Brody Levesque | TORONTO, Ontario -- Pink Triangle Press, parent company of Dailyxtra.com, the online home for the free newspaper Xtra that’s distributed in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, said Friday that Canadian coffee giant, Tim Hortons, had locked Dailyxtra.com out of its public WiFi network in all of its restaurants.
In an interview Friday, Xtra's Editor-In-Chief, Brandon Matheson, told LGBTQ Nation that the magazine had received numerous complaints from its online readers who are Hortons' customers over the past week that the site had been blocked. When Horton's IT systems administrator was contacted by Xtra to request that its website be unblocked, the request was refused and in an e-mail response wrote:
“We are writing to inform you that your request to unblock the requested website has been declined. We have reviewed this site’s content and have found that it is not appropriate for all ages viewing in a public environment. We try to ensure that all of our guests can enjoy a safe and pleasant experience when visiting us. 
We look at all of these types of requests in detail in order to provide the most latitude we can while keeping our restaurants a friendly environment.
While there is no way to change this decision, we can assure you that it was not an easy decision to make.”
According to Matheson, as the story broke Friday, Horton's backtracked as spokeswoman Michelle Robichaud told wire service The Canadian Press, "Dailyxtra.com should’ve never been blocked in the first place."
She said that a third party company which handles the company's WiFi network was at fault for the error and subsequent "miscommunication" adding that DailyXtra's website would be accessible soon.
Matheson pointed out that while third party company software used to filter public accessible WiFi networks is common, what stood out in this case was that the magazine had experienced a similar problem with another large Canadian chain of coffee shops, The Second Cup, which had also blocked the magazine and upon being requested to unblock the website complied immediately. As of late Friday afternoon, Hortons' had not yet directly communicated with DailyXtra confirming that the website would be unblocked.
“It’s really up to Tim Hortons to explain the situation and what review they did of the site, the determination they made and why,” Matheson says. But we have to careful, large corporation often use 3rd party services, so we left room for benefit of doubt as to whether or not the upper management [of Hortons'] would step in. 
Keep in mind that the complaints came from Horton's customers who happen to be Xtra readers. Since the reports in the Globe & Mail and others, it sounds as though upper management stepped in to correct the problem. This could have been a large surprise to them as it was to us."
Matheson noted that Hortons' WiFi system doesn’t appear to ban all gay news sites. Other gay news sites like Advocate.com, Queerty.com and Towleroad.com were not blocked, but Queerclick.com was blocked when Xtra tried to access the sites in a Toronto area Tim Hortons store.

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