Panera is an agent of The Man

I'm at Panera, using the free wireless. I just tried to read a blog on livejournal and found that their firewall blocks it. I poked around, and I found they block the whole domain:

The SonicWALL Content Filter Has Blocked this site.
If you feel this site has been blocked in error,
Please submit a URL Rating Review at:
Reason for restriction: Forbidden Category "Adult/Mature Content"

Mature content? OK, that's not completely off-base, as livejournal in fact allows people to post journals with mature content. However, the site certainly isn't geared toward mature content, and this firewall isn't blocking blogspot or typepad

I just tried (a dating service geared toward gay males, which has a clear reputation for where men look for hookups rather than actual dating relationships) and I got a restriction message saying simply "forbidden category." and OKcupid aren't blocked, so it isn't dating sites they're blocking. Craigslist isn't blocked, so it can't be that they're blocking sites that feature rampant advertising for sex. My e-mail account isn't blocked, so it can't be that they're filtering out discussions about sex.

Out of curiosity I googled "horny young sluts" and found several sites that were blocked for reason of "pornography" and others that let me right in. So I can see the horny young sluts, but I can't see livejournal. Oh, and Scarleteen is blocked due to being in the forbidden category of "sex education." I wish I were kidding. Planned Parenthood's sex education information section isn't blocked.

Off to SonicWall to er, submit a URL rating review.

Edited to add: I poked around on SonicWall, and the site allows the network adminstrator (in other words, Panera) to choose what categories are and are not blocked. For instance, they can choose to block internet auctions, chat/IM, job search, shopping, intimate apparel/swimsuit, gay/lesbian issues (we seem to be the only specific demographic group available for blocking) and so forth.

So I went on the SonicWall site and submitted a comment that livejournal is not primarily an "adult content" site, and also mentioned that most blog servers allow mature content and are not blocked.

I'm also going to e-mail Panera and tell them that I'm a mental health clinician who does work-related surfing here and doesn't appreciate the blocking of "sex education."

EDITED TO ADD: They wrote back. They said they've chosen to block "sex education" because they wish to create an environment that's friendly to all patrons. They didn't comment on my explanation that it's very easy to pull up blatant pornography (yet I can't pull up medical information I need to do my work).


Bruce said...

Try going to a pro-gun rights blog at Panera.

Survey says...X!!!

eeka said...

Bruce, that's an interesting idea. I should try that. "Weapons" is one of the categories that one can choose to ban.

But so are "health" and "cultural institutions" and "religion" and "computers."

They're pretty comprehensive, really, except that I find this one to really stand out as being noticably discriminatory:

Gay/Lesbian: Sites that provide information, promote, or cater to gay and lesbian lifestyles. Does not include sites that are sexually oriented.

They don't have an option for blocking sites that "promote" straight "lifestyles." Or an option for blocking sites about a specific religion, race, ethnicity, etc.

Bruce said...

It's like the libraries that filtered out sites with the word "breast" appearing frequently.

This, of course, made all breast cancer resources unavailable to the public.

Unintended consequences - they'll kick you in the ass every time.