Vodafone blocks LGBT website and redirects to ad for ‘flirty’ dating service

PinkNews Exclusive.

Mobile phone network Vodafone has restricted access to an LGBT community website to over-18s – instead showing ads for a “flirty” dating website.

A PinkNews reader spotted that the website lgbt.co.uk – which provides information on services for the LGBT community in the UK – appeared to be blocked by the provider.

A standard message received when trying to access the website states: “You are not able to access this service because VodafoneContent control is in place. If you’re 18 years or over, you can easily remove Vodafone Content control by going to the ‘About Content control’ link below for further information and details about how to remove it.”

The network requires people to prove their identity with a credit card and another form of ID in order to de-activate the filters.

Despite the perfectly child-friendly website only being accessible to over-18s, ironically the filtering page itself shows a number of ads for over-18 dating websites that remain unblocked.

When PinkNews attempted to view the page, Vodafone message was above an ad for raunchy-sounding dating site “FlirtFinder” – which was unfiltered despite its terms and conditions banning users 17 and under.

Another user received an ad for Match.com – also unfiltered – which operates a strict over-18s policy.

Peter Burnett of lgbt.co.uk told PinkNews: “We started the site in 2006 to deal with prejudice that was built into the tax and pensions system, as well as to campaign for civil partnership and equal marriage. We also discuss holidays and investments, as well as financial ideas for couples, which is our speciality.

“Of course, we haven’t got anything at all barely even saucy on the site, but because we use the terms lgbt, gay and transgender, for example, in our site metadata, providers and others sometimes block us.

“It is incredibly infuriating, not because we’re being blocked, but because it is exactly the sort of prejudice we dislike the most – instiutional assumptions made about millions of people, and not based on reason.”

He added: “Being blocked by Vodafone is careless and prejudiced use of metadata, with their engineers assuming that because our market is LGBT, we must be peddling porn, or something, I don’t know what. It’s so offensive.

“To be honest, any of many LGBT sites are at risk of this, and that is an ugly thought.

“I’m talking about forums, advice sites, clothing sites, news sites, help and information sites, and Vodafone should do their job and examine each site they block. There are also lists of adult sites they can consult, and we wouldn’t be on any of these.”

“Except that we are now on theirs, I am sad to say. I have challenged them of course to find any adult content on the site, which offers financial advice, and I await their response.”

Other LGBT-focussed websites including PinkNews and Stonewall appeared to still be accessible.

A Vodafone spokesperson told PinkNews: “Vodafone UK, along with the rest of the UK mobile operators use the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to define which content is unsuitable for customers under the age of 18.

“We use a third party supplier to provide automated technology to block sites which are unsuitable under that rating system and have recently changed our supplier, which clearly has slightly different categories than those of the provider we used before.

“We believe that the new automated system blocked this site by mistake and we have gone back to our supplier to ensure it is unbarred with immediate effect.”

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