The BC Liquor Distribution Branch has unblocked access to dailyxtra.com on its retail stores’ wifi service, following a complaint from a gay man who was unable to access the gay news website.
Jeffrey Fisher discovered the website was blocked “due to filtering” when he tried to access it at the BC Liquor Store on Commercial Drive.
“I got blocked and that thing popped on the screen indicating that it has been blocked,” he tells Daily Xtra. “And that’s ridiculous, especially here in East Vancouver where the paper edition was once freely available all over the Drive.”
Fisher took to Twitter on Feb 17, 2016 to ask the BC Liquor Stores for answers:
— Jeffrey Fisher (@Jeff_elliot) February 18, 2016
When he received no answer, he tweeted again on Feb 18:
“Whether people like the quality of it or not, it’s unnecessary to block the online version of what was the most prominent source of LGBT-related news and information in Canada,” Fisher says.
A spokesperson for the BC Liquor Distribution Branch says the site was blocked by its third-party content filter, OpenDNS, which blocked the site for nudity.
“However, there does not appear to be nudity on the site,” the spokesperson tells Daily Xtra. “The site appears to be a news and media site, so BC Liquor Stores will be creating an exemption on our end to allow access to your site on our in-store wifi.”
OpenDNS CEO David Ulevitch tells Daily Xtra they do not block gay and lesbian websites.
“Occasionally if a mistake is made we can fix it quickly,” he says.
Ulevitch says OpenDNS has a long history of working to make sure that LGBT websites are not inaccurately categorized.
“We’re a San Francisco company with a diverse group of employees,” he writes in a 2013 post on the trans website, Susan’s Place. “We respect all of them, their families, their friends, and the larger community we live and work in regardless of their gender, orientation, religious beliefs, or proclivities (hey, it’s SF, after all). We expect our products and services to reflect that same level of respect.”
Ken Popert, president and executive director of Pink Triangle Press, which owns and operates Daily Xtra, questions why wifi providers feel entitled to block content they don’t want people to access.
“You can’t really block parts of the internet because everything leads to everything else,” he notes. “But more importantly, what is the problem with nudity? It’s not illegal and I think most people are used to it.”
Popert says stories on Daily Xtra sometimes include nude images but readers are unlikely to stumble upon them in a casual look at the front pages. “If you can’t see anything that would bother you on a casual look, I can’t see why anyone would be concerned,” he says.