McBlocked!

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Overnight, we received a series of messages from concerned whanau about a McDonalds restaurant in Whakatane. We heard that the restaurant offered internet access but some customers found that gay sites, like GayNZ.com had been blocked.

Here is the korero from the website GayNZ.com:

As McDonald’s reviews its ban on access to some gay websites through its free WiFi service, the storyis sparking wide-ranging responses, with many people agreeing that sites for community welfaregroupssuch as Rainbow Youth should not be blocked, but others such as GayNZ.com may not be appropriate.

Emails and comments have poured in to GayNZ.com on the issue.Some people believe McDonald’s is practicing blatant censorship and a Facebook group called “McDiscrimination” has been set up by Wellington theatre director Ronald T Nelson, who bought Mates and Lovers to the stage.

Others believe GayNZ.com’s content should be censored, mostly due to its advertisements for saunas and sex shops.

Dan Hawke writes, “Having recently read your open letter to McDonalds, I felt the need to respond because I feel that it is biased and inappropriate for you to call yourself a ‘family-friendly” site considering the general level of the advertising that you allow on your site.

“You commonly feature scantily-clad men offering adult-focused events (R18 bars and venues, ‘cruise saunas’ etc.), which you have tried to compare to the sort of advertising on sites like Hotmail, but I do not believe a rational, unbiased person would come to the same conclusion as their advertising does not include sexually-explicit advertising nor is it designed to included pop-up advertising.”

Hawke suggests GayNZ.com should review whether it wishes to focus on being family-friendly site, and if so it should reconsider the types of advertising and content it allows.

However, GayNZ.com’s Content Editor Jay Bennie says the site has never described itself as “family friendly,” “certainly not in the context of being 100% appropriate for young children.” But, he says, it seems a shame that McDonald’s policy seems inconsistent and notes that many sites carry a variety of information, some of which is valuable to teenagers and young adults and some of which is more adult-suitable. “It’s a pity McDonald’s has to block the entire content of such broad ranging sites and cannot be more considered and selective. If they must block the likes of GayNZ.com because of some of our content then I hope they will apply the same criteria to non-gay sites which also contain some adult content and even virulent homophobic material.”

The majority of those who think GayNZ.com should be censored appear to agree that it’s unfair for sites such as Rainbow Youth, Agender and Family Planning to be blocked from the fast food giant’s service.

Family Planning has since joined the groups who have written to McDonald’s, asking for two of its websites to be available to customers using free WiFi both its main site and its youth-oriented site http://www.theword.org.nz/ have been blocked.

“I understand the blocking of these sites was a function of the filter you’re using rather than a specific decision by your organisation,” Chief Executive Jackie Edmond has written. “However, as a responsible corporate I urge your organisation to review and remove this block and allow your customers access to our sites and the quality information they contain.”

Other views

Among those who have weighed in on the debate is the Director of right-wing “family” group Family First, Bob McCoskrie, who is encouraging McDonald’s Restaurants to maintain its family friendly’ policy regarding its free WiFi services being offered in its restaurants.

“Websites containing explicit sexual material and images should continue to be banned by the family restaurant as the welfare and protection of children and families from offensive and inappropriate material is paramount,” he says.

“The issue is not about the type of group. It is about the content, and material which is adult-rated should be blocked in a public setting like McDonalds. The same type of filtering should be present in schools and libraries, and McDonald’s are to be congratulated for putting families first.

“Some of the websites which they have blocked have been blocked for good reason. People desperate to access this material will have to do it in a private setting through their own server, McCoskrie continues.

“Organisations who are complaining about the actions of McDonald’s simply need to clean their websites up to make them family friendly.”

Another person who agrees with McDonald’s is self-described “political activist” Jevan Goulter, who featured in the Uncertain category of the recently published GayNZ.com 2010 Dishonours List, has issued statement of support for the burger chain.

“I completely support the decision of Mc Donald’s New Zealand in blocking websites such as GayNZ.com. One of the reasons being, that it is almost impossible to venture through to their website without images popping up on their homepage that are disturbing to even the likes of me, and if I find it offensive then I completely understand why families and young people would deem it unacceptable.”

Goulter attacks GayNZ.com and its Content Editor Jay Bennie as living in the stone ages, “thinking that people like me still get beaten up and stoned to death in our country, the reality being that this is not the case.”

He adds, “Other gay sites like aaronandandy.com were not blocked, as their material would rarely (or never) exhibit nudity and nor would it offend people if it were opened on a computer screen.”

(Meanwhile Goulter has also announced that following his failed Wanganui mayoral campaign he is planning to stand in the 2012 Gold Coast City Council Elections. He professes to be a Greens supporter and says he will stand under an environment banner.)

Overseas?

The story has been picked up globally and GayNZ.com Daily News has been contacted by staff from foreign GLBT websites and asked to check whether access to their sites has also been blocked in New Zealand McDonald’s.

Interestingly this website is available in Australian McDonald’s outlets our contacts have checked – in the nation where McDonald’s New Zealand’s WiFi filters are administered from by its provider. GayNZ.com is also freely available at UK McDonald’s outlets.

McDonald’s has a recent history of gay-friendly initiatives, including an ad featuring a gay teenager in France, sponsorship of the 2007 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade and donating to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in 2008, despite a boycott from the American Family Association.

“Hatred has no place in our culture,” McDonald’s USA spokesman Bill Whitman told the Washington post in 2008. “That includes McDonald’s, and we stand by and support our people to live and work in a society free of discrimination and harassment.”

http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_9777.php

[Editor’s Note: Contrary to rumour GayNZ.com did not approach 3News “peddling” the WiFi story “on a slow news day”, nor did it broker any type of deal. Reporter Samantha Hayes called our newsroom after 3News staff saw our original story on Twitter. It is normal practice for media to follow up on stories broken by other news outlets.]

As mentioned above, we received a press release from Jevan Goulter. Here it is in full:

Gay Activist Jevan Goulter Stands Behind Mc Donald’s New Zealand

22 year old, Gay political activist, Jevan Goulter is standing %100 behind Mc Donald New Zealands decision to block selected websites provided through the free wifi service offered to Mc Donald customers in their restaurants.

I completely support the decision of Mc Donalds New Zealand in blocking websites such as gaynz.com. One of the reasons being, that it is almost impossible to venture through to their website without images popping up on their homepage that are disturbing to even the likes of me, and if I find it offensive then I completely understand why families and young people would deem it unacceptable.

The problem with gaynz.com is you give them an inch and they want to take a mile, as soon as something is not family friendly, apparently its homophobia or gay bashing, the reality here being that our community, my community and the gaynz.com community need to wake up, and realise that sometimes things are in the best interests of the wider community and New Zealand, not solely the gay community.

Mc Donalds have an obligation to protect young people and families and create an environment that is safe and caters for everybody not just the pink dollar.

The Problem is you have people like Jay Bennie at gaynz.com who still live in the stone ages thinking that people like me still get beaten up and stoned to death in our country, the reality being that this is not the case.

The Family Planning website is also blocked, should we scream homophobia at this as well? I just need to borrow a megaphone from gay head quarters and find a restaurant to stand outside in protest.

Other gay sites like aaronandandy.com were not blocked, as their material would rarely (or never) exhibit nudity and nor would it offend people if it were opened on a computer screen.

After speaking to a close friend who is a gay model and role model for many of these websites, they also agree with Mc Donalds in supporting the theory You give the community an inch and they take a mile. I will continue to state that our energy needs to be channelled into more important areas of New Zealand as a community and not targeted at family restaurants contributing to New Zealand every year.

Here is the truth, it really is just a small minority of the gay community making a song and dance for themselves, it does not represent the wider gay community nor do they represent our thoughts, how we think or how we feel about certain issues. Unlike a minority of the gay community, a majority of us still live in the real world.
I personally find the statements and ventures that gaynz.com set out on very embarrassing for the fact that the rest of New Zealand may make the mistake in thinking that a one man controlled and one view website may represent me.

I would ask the whole gay community of New Zealand to realise that this is a family restaurant that we are talking about and this is a family restaurant that we are attacking, where we eat where children eat and where families it. We are attacking an international brand for sticking to a social mandate that includes setting an example for the youth of today. If you want to look at half naked men on Gaynz.com or try to hook up on New Zealand dating, then do it at home or an Internet cafe, not in a family restaurant.

I am happy to lend my support to Mc Donalds New Zealand in this scenario and to Mark Hawthorne the CEO of Mc Donalds New Zealand and commend him and the rest of the company on doing what they feel they need to do to keep our community, our children and our families safe.

Often we question as a society whether places like Mc Donalds have a social conscience, however I think we have no choice other than to accept that they do when we see acts of justified measurement like this put in place.

Comment from Facebook were also mixed:

but does that include http://www.gaynz.com/ – not a porn filled site like u say. if it is, then mcd’s are mcbigots. i know what u say tho jevan – no one wants their kids to be eating nuggets and watching porn but not all gay sites are flesh-focused…

Tautoko Jevan – sites like gaynz.com are fine – but AUE! There are many out there that contain pornographic material and McD’s probably doesn’t have the time to filter through everything… By the sounds of the uproar over it, there are probably thousands out there who are WANTING to look at questionable sites whilst indulging their Big Mac cravings – if so, fine, but do it at your whare kare – certain material is for your eyes only – not our babies…

Kirsty Johnston from Stuff.co.nz recently updated:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/4530162/McDonalds-lifts-blocks-on-some-gay-websites

McDonald’s has begun allowing access to a number of gay-related websites from its free Wi-Fi service, but is sticking by its ban of a leading gay news website.

The fast food chain faced the anger of the gay community after denying access to gay-related websites on a new free Wi-Fi service at its restaurants.

The service, installed in branches nationwide in December, saw McDonald’s claim it was now the largest free internet provider in New Zealand.

But the service filtered a number of sites it deems to fall outside its “family friendly” policy. This saw access blocked to a number gay and lesbian-related sites.

The ban has sparked anger from a community who feel McDonald’s are imposing a “censorship of gay-themed sites”.

Last night McDonald’s began opening up the service, removing blocks on a number of websites including Rainbow Youth and Agender websites, as well as the website for New Zealand Family Planning

However, so far it is sticking by a block on GayNZ.

“McDonald’s is struggling with some of the content, for example some of third party advertising,” communications manager Christine Dennis said in an email.

“Some advertisements are sexually explicit and they do not meet our ‘family or child friendly’ criteria.”

The company had offered to meet with the website’s editor “to explore whether there is a mutually acceptable way to move forward”.

McDonald’s apologised for any offence but said it would “actively discriminate” against access to sexually explicit or pornographic material in its restaurants.

GayNZ is a news and information site for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. It was a finalist in the “investigative journalism” section of the Qantas Media Awards last year, and was ranked the most popular Lifestyle-Gay and Lesbian site by Hitwise in its most recent survey.

The website reported complaints pouring in from people unable to access certain sites, including the NZ Aids foundation site, Bro Online and the Family Planning web page.

It quoted Wellingtonian Julz Darroch as saying the blocks “shocked” her.

“Just when we think we can get used to being treated as equals in society, and in the main centres at least, something like this comes along,” Darroch said.

“Our being lesbian or gay, or wanting to be in contact with our friends and communities, should not be an issue for the likes of McDonald’s.”

A check revealed a number of other gay-related sites such as graygay.com, lesbian.co.nz and daily.gay.com did not work.

However, Avert.org, a site for young gay people, and a number of sites with articles containing sex advice could be accessed.

A Wikipedia article on the Karma Sutra could not, and neither did the men’s magazine site Askmen.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. UPDATE 12/1/11 – “Jevan Goulter calls on Gaynz.com to remove advertisements not meeting a family friendly policy”

    http://jevangoulter.blogspot.com/2011/01/jevan-goulter-calls-on-gaynzcom-to.html

    In recent days we have seen a minority of New Zealands gay community attack a family restaurant (Mc Donalds) for maintaining a family friendly policy in prohibiting access to certain sites on their free wifi access to customers.

    Since TV3 have led with the story, Mc Donalds have reviewed certain sites and since unblocked a number of them, for example rainbow youth, family planning and other sites that have been deemed educational, which has been welcomed by members of the GLBT community.

    gaynz.com who believe that their site should be accessible to people in Mc Donald restaurants, Despite admitting that they are not a family website believe that it is discrimination and a homophobic attack to be blocked by Mc Donalds, a claim which I have rubbished and find absolutely ridiculous.
    Mc Donalds New Zealand has offered to meet with gaynz.com, an offer which gaynz.com has accepted, to review this decision.

    The problem in question is some third party advertisements on gaynz.com which display graphic images that would not be deemed accessible for families or children.

    As a prominent person in the gay community I stood behind Mc Donalds and their decision to maintain their family friendly policy advising and assuring the international brand that this was a view shared by a minority of my community.

    I will continue to stand behind Mc Donalds %100 as I feel they are making good and well educated decisions as too which sites they are reviewing and unblocking.

    In regards to gaynz.com I have let Mc Donalds know my own view, being that I think it would be suitable to unblock gaynz.com on the proviso that all advertisements that do not meet with Mc Donalds family friendly policy are removed. These would include adverts with images of half naked men, sauna and dating advertisements and anything along this theme.

    If gaynz.com remove the advertisements in question then I am more than happy to support Mc Donalds in unblocking the gaynz.com website, noting that other than the inappropriate advertisements there is a slight element of educational material.

    Gaynz.com were originally the first party to make a noise in disgust when finding out that they were not accessible in Mc Donald Restaurants around the country, and I think that this is an opportunity for them to come to a compromise as so that they can achieve their purpose of being accessible online in Mc Donalds.

    I thank Mc Donalds for their understanding in reviewing certain websites and also for their quick work and efforts in working with the GLBT community.
    I am a proud supporter of gay rights and to see this situation resolved would be beneficial to all parties. It is quite clear that what has occurred is somewhat a storm in a teacup which can be cleaned up as quickly as it was caused.

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