McDonald's Wi-Fi: What's blocked and what's not

Monday 10 Jan 2011 3:24 p.m.

McDonald's' free Wi-Fi blocks several gay-themed websites

McDonald's' free Wi-Fi blocks several gay-themed websites

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By Dan Satherley

McDonald’s has come under fire today for blocking access to gay-themed websites through its free Wi-Fi service.

News site gaynz.com reported this morning their site was not accessible, nor were several other sites servicing the gay community.

But what can you access through the restaurant giant’s internet connection? And what turns the restaurants' Happy Meals' smiles into frowns?

As it turns out, it's akin to flipping a coin whether a borderline website makes the cut or not – borderline being a subjective point of view, of course.

While gaynz.com is essentially a mix of news, opinion, events and entertainment, website Bro Online appears to cater for more, let's say, adult interests. Its front page is adorned with naked men posing in the shower, lounging around the house, cuddling in the pool – you get the idea. It also prominently links to a section unambiguously titled 'Cruise the Bros'.

It's available at McDonald's.

Gay Express is a newspaper with nationwide distribution. Its online presence is rudimentary, but slips through the net.

Rainbowtourism.co.nz, a gay-themed tourism website, is also fine.

So what is blocked? Well, gaynz.com, as mentioned earlier. Agender.org.nz, a support group for transgender New Zealanders, doesn't make it past the filter. Rainbow Youth, an advocacy and support group for young gay Kiwis is also a no-go.

In fact, it was easier finding gay-related sites that were blocked than were open, regardless of the site's purpose.

And while gay site Bro Online is given the green light, mainstream dating sites like the Fairfax-owned findsomeone.co.nz and the ever-popular nzdating.com are blocked.

The filter's primary purpose – one would imagine – is to block adult content, the kind you'd only look at in private, and that it does well. Some might say too well – though it does have its blind spots.

The website for Steve Crow's Erotica Expo is blocked, as you'd expect, as are a few international adult sites 3 News tried out – no matter how tame the content, like newspaper The Sun's 'Page 3' website.

But in a day and age when even Facebook is afraid to host breastfeeding support groups, it's perhaps inevitable McDonald's' attempt to keep a family-friendly image would veer into absurdity. Wikipedia pages for certain body parts are blocked, though a search on Flickr (not blocked) will bring up said body parts in no time. You can't read an encyclopaedic entry about sex, but you can head on over to LiveJournal (a popular blogging site with a sizeable 'slash fiction' community) and read a story about Captain Kirk and Spock going where no captain of the USS Enterprise has gone before – at least on TV.

McDonald's isn't the only provider of free Wi-Fi in the Auckland CBD – the library does too. It's not very fast, and you're limited to 100MB a day, but they don't block a thing. 3 News had no trouble logging on to any site we tried – the only hurdle was the painfully slow connection, so although you can get onto The Pirate Bay, good luck downloading that new Duran Duran album before they close up for the day.

The Westfield mall at the bottom of Queen St and most cafes in the CBD, including Starbucks, provide Wi-Fi through a service called Tomizone. It's completely uncensored, though will set you back a few dollars an hour.

Almost everywhere 3 News went in the CBD today our netbook picked up a 'Telecom hotspot', which is great coverage, but at a whopping $9.95 an hour, we can't say it was worth checking out – no matter how uncensored!

3 News

NOTE: 3 News cannot guarantee the suitability of any of the above links for a workplace, school or restaurant environment.

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