Coffee Bean Blocks Towleroad, Pam’s House Blend for ‘Sexuality’

Coffeebean

The Advocate (via UniteTheFight reports) on censorship at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which operates hundreds of locations, mainly on the west coast:

"Phillip Minton of
Unite the Fight — a group trying to overturn
California's Proposition 8 – had booted up his laptop
on Thursday at a Coffee Bean location in Los Angeles
and was informed he couldn't access sites like Pam's
House Blend
and Towleroad due to 'sexuality.'
According to commenters at Unite the Fight's website,
ex-gay sites for groups like Exodus and Parents and Friends
of Ex-Gays are accessible on Coffee Bean's Wi-Fi
service. In his post,
Minton wrote, 'Naturally, I wrote a rather angry e-mail
[to Coffee Bean's corporate office in Los Angeles] telling
them they need to do a better job determining what is
porn or 'adult' from what is a news or editorial blog.
If I typed in 'heterosexual,' would the sites pulled
up be blocked? I doubt it.'"

The Wi-Fi provider, OpenDNS, claimed the block comes from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and not the WiFi provider. Unfortunately, this practice is all too common. Many corporations censor LGBT websites because they are automatically deemed sexual or adult in nature.

Would love to know where else we are blocked. Let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. David says

    This site and others like it have been blocked in the American Airlines Admiral’s Clubs at D/FW airport for years.

    It can’t be an AA policy, however, because the same doesn’t hold true at LaGuardia or JFK. It must be a local policy.

  2. Rick says

    Towleroad is blocked at Drexel University’s Law School (and perhaps entire campus) in Philadelphia, PA

  3. Bosie says

    Good to know ..another place to boycott…small coffee shops are better and i can make delicious expressos at home…F coffee bean..

  4. Kevin says

    Sometimes the pictures on this site are not necessarily something I’d want in plain view of my customers in a coffeeshop if I were the owner. I don’t think it’s necessarily being “anti-gay” to block this site in a family establishment. Pure news sites are another matter.

  5. Magellan says

    I was in LA over spring break and I went on Towleroad a million times from The Coffee Bean, so the ban is relatively new.

  6. Keith near Dolores Park says

    I would think your tag line “A site with homosexual tendencies” would be enough to get the site banned in most of the censorship minded places.

  7. Godfrey says

    KEVIN….

    Is “Advocate. com” blocked?

    Now, they have clean white picket fence pictures!

  8. chad says

    Good to go at Starbucks via AT&T Wi-Fi.

    (I don’t think anything is blocked here. They have kicked a few people out at the store I usually go to in New Mexico for looking at porno.)

  9. Anonymous says

    Just an FYI – OpenDNS is not the Wi-Fi provider, they only provide the content filtering tool that the WiFI Provider (who in this case, is CBTL) uses.

  10. remix says

    This happened at my office last month. Both Towleroad and Pam’s House Blend (the only two gay-related blogs by the way) were suddenly blocked and categorized as “adult theme” and “sexuality.” It was weird because my office doesn’t even block pornography or really anything other than some animated ads. I was feeling offended (obviously) and was annoyed that I was going to have to ask for access. We had an option on the blocked pages that allowed you to ask for the website to be reviewed. I clicked it, maybe twice, for this site and the next day the bans were lifted (on both sites). I actually don’t think it was intentional. It’s possible that both of these sites are somehow automatically thrown into an inappropriate category and blocked without someone checking it out first.

  11. Jeremy says

    Towleroad is blocked on the student computer kiosks at Juilliard. I don’t have a laptop, so I’m not sure if Juilliard’s wireless service also blocks the site on third party computers.

  12. Josh says

    I can’t access Towleroad or Adam4Adam from the wifi inside the Mormon temple in San Diego.

  13. Shawn says

    I was surprised to find that the flagship Whole Foods Market, in downtown Austin, TX blocks towleroad.com. Austin is a very liberal town, and WF is a progressive company, so this was surprising.

  14. Doogie says

    Towleroad has been blocked at Denver International Airport’s free wi-fi the last few times I’ve been through there, although so has Boing Boing.

  15. eclecticon says

    Towleroad was blocked at the law firm I worked at in Vancouver, Canada for three years – – the filtering software’s reason? “Intamate Apparel” – [spelling mistake included].

  16. Dave says

    OpenDNS is just the DNS provider. The local net admin for that Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf probably uses OpenDNS and has it set to block porn and adult-themed websites, probably without a clear idea of what sorts of sites those are.

    I encourage people on here to flag OpenDNS’s review of towleroad.com for review by going to http://domain.opendns.com/towleroad.com and clicking Flag. I submitted the following comment; feel free to copy and paste:

    Towleroad does not fit the definition of “Sexuality” that OpenDNS provides. It should be removed from the “sexuality” category because it doesn’t provide “information, images or implications of bondage, sadism, masochism, fetish, beating, body piercing or self-mutilation.”

  17. Rich says

    I don’t think this is necessarily anti-gay. This site does display plenty of NSFW photos (underwear models, etc.) on the front page all the time. I have a special “SFW” group of feeds in my RSS reader that I use in public places like coffee shops. Towleroad is NOT part of that list, because I don’t want someone looking over my shoulder to think I’m looking at porn. At just a quick glance, that’s what this site can look like sometimes. Coffee Bean might just be trying to create a kid-friendly atmosphere in their stores, without half-naked people all over people’s laptop screens in plain view of everyone. I think that’s fair.

  18. Dave says

    @Crispy – Kids may not love coffee, but CBTL sells more than coffee. And kids’ parents probably love coffee…

  19. Rich says

    Towleroad was blocked at the Denver airport free wifi last time I checked (about a year ago).

    Good to go on the San Diego airport free wifi though as of last weekend.

    @Josh: Way funny about the Morman Temple in SD.

  20. sittaraha1 says

    The corporation that I work at only blocks some of the ads on Towleroad. I assume that they feel the blog is fine but might have a filter for the ads since they might be “not business appropriate”.

  21. crispy says

    Good point, Dave. In that case, we absolutely must keep kids from seeing shirtless, muscled athletes. It might turn them gay.

  22. Jason Knight says

    Oddly enough, Towleroad and Queerty are not blocked at SAIC, one of the largest government contractors, yet Pam’s Houseblend, Joe My God, and Page One Q are. Strange, but this is the one that counts right?

  23. Tom says

    I recently served on an NY Supreme Court Grand Jury and the juror’s wifi blocks Towleroad (though not joe.my.god). Not sure if that wifi is provided by the state or by NYC (the city provides the building and facilities).

  24. Ed says

    “I don’t think this is necessarily anti-gay. This site does display plenty of NSFW photos (underwear models, etc.) on the front page all the time.”

    I’d buy this argument if sites like Sports Illustrated (female swim suit photos and a ‘Cheerleader of the Week’ section), Men’s Health, any newspaper with a ‘page six girl’, etc. were blocked too. Somehow I doubt it though. There is nothing on this site that is any racier than those sites.

  25. Bill says

    I work at a prominent real estate firm in NYC and your site was blocked by our parent company last year. After some polite complaining to our HR Dept, however, it was restored. Months later we went through the same process a second time, but since then we’ve followed you with relish (and without interruption).

  26. m says

    frankly, there’s a great argument that any site that uses the acronym NSFW and then posts “NSFW” material after the jump is adult in nature and legitimately subject to these type of private restrictions

  27. SCOTT says

    I guess I will have to block my lips from Coffee Bean. Get a grip people, this is America Land of the free. We should be able to get to anysite anytime. Consumers come in all different packages, coffee shops need to cater to all of them. If I am cruising Adam4Adam, then the mother needs to step to the plate and move her children.

  28. Paul R says

    Towleroad has never posted a truly NSFW picture on its main page. In fact, the only complaints about that I’ve ever seen were about that odd Argentine pit sniffing magazine cover posted recently. As Crispy notes, it’s just the occasional hot athlete (or actor), and you can see similar pictures on the covers of magazines at every checkout aisle of every supermarket.

    I can understand being concerned about workplace protocol far better than worrying about strangers in an airport or coffee shop. Something is wrong if people are that interested in what you’re looking at on your laptop, or if you’re that worried about what they’re seeing. Actually my first exposure to printed male nudity was at an airport, when an older gent was looking at an issue of Playgirl. You can’t completely sanitize life, thank god.

  29. peterparker says

    I sent the following in an email to The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at info@coffeebean.com:

    I was outraged to read this morning in two of my favorite blogs, http://www.towleroad.com and http://www.pamshouseblend.com, that The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf blocks both sites from their wi-fi service due to “sexuality”. Neither site is pornographic. Neither site is inappropriate for viewing in a public location. In fact, Pam’s House Blend and Towleroad are news and entertainment sites for the GLBT community covering topics such as the latest political developments affecting our community, hate crimes against our community and discrimination such as, well, being blocked from viewing a site over a wi-fi service simply because that site’s content deals with GLBT issues.

    To give you an idea of how well-respected Towleroad is, consider the following: when the Democratic National Committee met in Denver in 2008 to elect Barack Obama the Democratic candidate for U.S. President, the DNC invited towleroad to cover the event as one of the convention’s official credentialed bloggers. I would think if Towleroad was respectable enough for the DNC, it would be respectable enough for The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

    Meanwhile, Pam’s House Blend is a perennial finalist and former winner of the Weblog Awards category of Best LGBT Site.

    In response to complaints about the censorship of the sites, the wi-fi provider, OpenDNS, stated, “We only provide network admins with the tools to block content on their networks, we as a company do not block anyone for any reason. If this user (i.e.business) chooses to block a particular type of content on their network, we cannot interfere.”

    Clearly, someone in a position of authority in the corporate offices of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf has decided that any GLBT content is unacceptable in your establishment simply because it deals with GLBT content. This is homophobic. It is also completely unacceptable. I expect The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to rectify this situation immediately.

    In the meantime, I think you should know that this weekend is the Christopher Street West GLBT Pride Parade in West Hollywood. There will be, literally, hundreds of thousands of people at the parade. The route goes right in front of one of your locations. I plan to stand in front of that location telling everyone who tries to enter that The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf censors GLBT sites from being viewed on their Wi-Fi service. I doubt that information is going to go over too well with the people at the parade.

  30. peterparker says

    I just went to the home page for OpenDNS and noticed a link under ‘Press and News’ that stated:

    “Jun 09, 2009: Hospitality Technology Magazine Case Study: All U.S. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Restaurants Switch to OpenDNS”

  31. Robert says

    Just got a reply from The Coffee Bean, Andy you may want to amend this posting!?

    Thank you so much for your email; I really appreciate you taking the
    time to contact us.

    Thanks in part to your email yesterday; we were made aware that two
    specific sites catering to the LGBT community were blocked from access
    on our wi-fi service. Those sites included Pam’s House Blend and
    Towleroad. After learning of the issue, our technical team researched
    the situation and took immediate steps to unblock the sites that were
    brought to our attention.

    I can definitely assure you that it is not, and has never been, our
    policy to block Internet content or websites from our customers or
    members of the LGBT community. We do use an OpenDNS platform that
    incorporates a peer review component which allows users to flag
    particular sites they deem inappropriate. In this case, a small amount
    of flags triggered the system and the sites in question were blocked
    automatically. No web-content filter is perfect, but we are grateful to
    customers like you who quickly brought this to our attention for
    resolution.

    Please do know that we support diversity on all levels and we value the
    community members of the areas we operate in. Our goal in offering free
    wi-fi service is to open communication and exchange of information, not
    to block information.

    Again, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. If I can be
    of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me
    directly.

    I hope you have a terrific weekend!

    Katie Mackin
    Customer Relations Supervisor
    International Coffee & Tea, LLC
    dba The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

  32. KB says

    KEVIN- I often thought the same thing…. But if you really look at it in the way that if the pictures were of a woman in a bikini like EVERY magazine has out there (including all of the news sites), whats the difference.

  33. says

    Towleroad and Pam’s House Blend are both blocked on the Megabus, which is a bus shuttle service between Boston-NYC (they run other locations as well, but I know I tried on the Boston-NYC leg, and was denied. Queerty, however, was accessible, which threw me for a loop).

  34. says

    I am reading this post at the Coffee Bean in Las Vegas. No censorship here. Just tried a few hard-core ones — manhunt, xtube, gay.com — and popped right in, so to speak. Sounds isolated to me.

  35. J says

    I used to work for Career Education Corporation and they block Towleroad ad others as well.

  36. Jim says

    Someone needs to post a list of sites that block non-porn gay sites. I’m sure the owners will claim it is a “glitch” like Amazon did. They aren’t getting my business either.
    Boycott unfriendly places.

  37. says

    Most of the time i opened Towleroad at my home & office but Towleroad was blocked at the Delhi airport free wifi last time I checked (about a Month ago).Good to go on the Tokyo airport free wifi though as of last weekend.
    But in my opinion its not bad site.

  38. Kristoffer says

    Towleroad just recently was blocked from my workplace. I have a feeling that it has to do more with the ads/pictures featured more than the content. I was always careful when I took a look at the site since I was afraid someone would pass by and think I was viewing some type porn site.. but oh well – just means I will have to work and save Towleroad for home :)

  39. Terry says

    Would you believe gay travel Web sites are blocked in my office – how crazy is that?

  40. Kevin says

    My employer actually DOES block sports illustrated and ESPN, so I guess I’m used to equal opportunity filtering and didn’t immediately see this as an anti-gay thing. I do get Towleroad, but most of the images and a lot of the links are blocked.

  41. Miah says

    Why would you write an angry email to coffee bean in the first place? Contact the platform that coffee bean uses especially considering most platforms allow the USERS to flag sites THEY deem inappropriate. I think the fact that you wrote an angry email to coffee bean should embarrass you for playing the I’m gay I’m a victim card. We live in a world that is more and more accepting of gays every day. you’re not a victim and coffee bean and other companies that block these sites are not out to get you, they are simply trying their best to protect the youth from filth and pornography. A simple misunderstanding that personally I praise this tim casey guy for responding to so pleasantly. I think you should have went about this misunderstanding in a completely different fashion and praise casey for being so understanding while be harassed through the email by you.

  42. Miah says

    wow. I just read your email to coffee bean.
    You threatened to boycott coffee bean and claim they are homophobic?
    HAHA of course the OpenDNS is going to deny any wrong doing look at how you react to a misunderstanding. chill the fuck out. not everyone is out to get you. youre not a victim just because you are gay.

    again, CHILL THE FUCK out and praise coffee bean for reacting so pleasantly and calmly to being harassed by some pissed off immature little person threatening them.

  43. Seth says

    Couldn’t help but comment that less than a year later I’m posting this comment from the wireless server at a Coffee Bean