The online gay community is launching an attack on the Internet cafe chain EasyEverything for blocking gay Web sites from its service.
The filtering software that the company uses has been criticised for censoring "harmless" gay Web sites. Blocked sites including Gaydar.co.uk and squirt.org are encouraging members to boycott the cybercafes, claiming that the software places them in the same category as illegal Web sites.
But the EasyGroup is adamant that WebSense software only eliminates hardcore pornography, hate sites and illegal content from its service. "It's a sensitive issue, and that is why we employ specialists to filter the network," said a spokesman for EasyEverything.
The EasyEverything cafes, founded by entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, are mostly frequented by young people aged 18-24 taking advantage of cheap Internet access for an average of £1 an hour. The company claims that its service needs to meet public standards, as schoolchildren are allowed to use its connected PCs unsupervised. "We fully endorse the concept of the Internet providing useful information to all people, but the stores are a public place used by children of all ages."
But the filtering system has been accused of being inconsistent, as gay sites like RainbowNetwork.com are slipping through the net. This has angered blocked sites such as Gaydar.co.uk and squirt.org, who claim they are classifieds services and that gay cruising guides are harmless. The EasyEverything spokesman has labelled these specific sites "offensive" owing to the pornographic images that they contain, but was unable to offer a clear definition of "obscene" content.
EasyEverything is advising its 1.6 million customers to contact WebSense directly with any complaints about the filtering system.
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