Filtering can be appropriate

Filtering can be appropriate

Summary: McDonald's has blocked certain gay-themed websites from its recently launched free Wi-Fi service in New Zealand and has been accused of homophobia.


McDonald's has blocked certain gay-themed websites from its recently launched free Wi-Fi service in New Zealand and has been accused of homophobia.

McDonald's rejects such accusations and I believe they are right, as many heterosexual sites with adult content are blocked too.

Gay groups do have a right to be concerned, but McDonald's also has a right to set its own standards as to what is "acceptable".

Now, many organisations, such as employers, schools, web hosting companies and internet service providers have "acceptable use" policies for the internet. Internet New Zealand has a briefing paper on the issue. Many such policies cover things like sending spam and viruses, blocking distracting social media and auction sites, and the inevitable adult content also features.

As a family restaurant, McDonald's cannot have customers accessing sites other customers might look across at and find offensive. It cannot have the kids accessing such sites themselves, even if by accident. Thus, given that McDonald's is hosting the free Wi-Fi itself, it is no surprise adult content is blocked.

Now, other organisations will have their own acceptable use policies which might allow that content. And that's fine.

When I use the free internet in the library, I have to click in a box that I will meet the library's own "acceptable use" policy. I was surprised, however, to read Auckland library does not block websites.

It may be that the new Auckland Council takes a more politically correct line, judging such content not offensive. Maybe its library users aren't bothered. Nonetheless, I am sure the council will have considered the feelings of its customers.

Perhaps McDonald's will need to tweak what it finds "acceptable" to the individual restaurant level based on its clientele, but as long as companies base their filtering on grounded reasoning, I don't have a problem with it.

Topics: Broadband, Censorship, Networking, NBN, Wi-Fi

Darren Greenwood

About Darren Greenwood

Darren Greenwood has been in journalism, not all of it IT, since the days of typewriters and long before the web spun its way around the world.

Coming from Yorkshire, he can be blunt, and though having resided in New Zealand, as well as Australia, for quite some time, he insists he is not one of the 'sheeple!'

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  • Now that they are deciding when to censor. this may then open up McDonalds to legal action for anything they don't block that is found to be offensive ... a very slippery slope
  • Filtering is a double edged sword, you risk offending someone whatever you do. On the other hand - legally speaking - as non filtering common rebroadcasting "ISP like" intermediary you have more protections than one who knowingly engages in content controls. Porn "on screen" in McDonalds was just made an issue, by McDonalds themselves when then started filtering, whether the contents was internet served or not. Staying out of filtering places content responsibility squarely back on the customer, which I would have thought was a better corporate outcome.