Seattle’s Highest Skyscraper Blocks Gay Sites Like Joe. My. God, It Gets Better, and Towleroad

Columbia Center Gay Filter Error Message 

Columbia_center_from_smith_towerIf you can read this article, then it is safe to assume that you're not currently sitting inside Seattle's 76-story Columbia Center. If you did, you would receive the error message pictured above (courtesy of The Stranger). Such would be the case if you were to also try to access other gay-themed sites such as Joe. My. God. and the It Gets Better Project. 

Slog first broke the story after receiving a tip from a reader. This reader was apparently visiting the Columbia Center when they tried to use the building's free wi-fi to check a few gay-themed sites and blogs. He was, instead, met with the error message above. 

"This is a known 'Sexual Orientation' web site which is blocked as specified by your web content filtering policy."

It is not yet known exactly why the "web content filtering policy" chose to include LGBT-oriented sites. Slog has made multiple attempts to contact CAC Group, the commercial real estate company responsible for managing the Columbia Center, and submit requests for comment. So far, CAC has not given any sort of answer. 


  1. bigolpoofter says

    Pretty sad, given that Columbia Center is managed by a San Francisco-based firm:

    CAC Real Estate Management Co., Inc.
    111 Sutter Street, Suite 350
    San Francisco, CA 94104
    Tel: (415) 291-1733
    Fax: (415) 291-1738

  2. KJ says

    Not very Seattle like. Ironically, the tower provided shade for my groups staging spot for the Pride Parade. So for that, I thank it!

  3. JamesInCA says

    “This is known as a ‘sexual orientation’ web site….”

    So, I guess this filtering policy also blocks sites discussing heterosexuality? Or does Norton DNS really mean “This is known as a ‘gay’ web site….”?

    Symantec is a California company. If they offer a filtering rule whose only function is to block access to sites that are tagged as gay, I wonder if they’re running afoul of any of California’s LGBT anti-discrimination laws.

  4. JamesInCA says

    California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act states: “All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.”

    So it seems to me that a California-based blogger writing a non-adult/non-pornographic, gay-interest blog whose content is blocked by Norton DNS would have a cause of action against Symantec for blocking his/her “full and equal” access to Internet facilities.

  5. JONES says

    Guess the hate groups finally got the message about the information age.
    Where’s that cry for ‘free speech’ now, haters?
    When you’re losing the war you sacrifice liberties?
    Are you that stupid that you didn’t think you’d get called out on this?

  6. says

    that’s the same wifi provider noodles & company uses. when i contacted them, i was told the websites in question would need to contact norton dns in order to appeal to have their own site unblocked. this applies to other glbt publications as well, including sites for the advocate, afterellen, outsports, and the washington blade. it would be one thing if glbt news and culture sites were being (incorrectly) labeled as pornographic, but i don’t understand why anything related to “sexual orientation” is blocked. i hope this picks up more views and questions so it can be handled as it is frustrating and seemingly arbitrary, and i have yet to get any real answers just tweeting as an individual. thanks!

  7. Raybob says

    Fortunately, most smartphones can serve as WiFi hotspots. And they don’t filter by domain name.

  8. James says

    Hmmm. Wonder if you can get the WBC, FRC, AFA or any other of the hate sites while sitting in the building?

    Any Seattlelites out there feel like a little road trip to the Columbia Building to give it a try?

  9. JamesInCA says

    The issue isn’t the building. It’s that a major network service provider (apparently) offers the ability to selectively block LGBT web sites. If the building changes their firewall settings to remove that rule, the issue still remains that Symantec (apparently) offers this option. The service provider ought to be the target here. And the publishers whose work is being blocked are the injured parties.

  10. Aldo says

    I stayed at Aulani, a Disney resort and I could not read Towleroad…. Had to wait until back home to check this site. There was no error message just a simplified white background page that had some text that made it seem like the page had trouble loading but no news, clickable links or pictures.

  11. john patrick says

    When the last place I worked introduced Internet access for all workers, I was able to access HRC and other websites to get information for a proposal I made for domestic partner benefits for same sex couples. A couple years later I found that I was not able to access these sites. They had installed a web filter that filtered them out. When I brought this to the attention of the CEO, he asked the HR director to follow up with me. She offered to look up articles for me on the sites until they could correct the situation. They apparently changed the web filter, because the situation was soon corrected. I wonder if this is a similar case.

  12. anon says

    Well, technically, they are offering free wi-fi as a courtesy, so you’re acting as a guest when you use it. However, you can get around these filters if you know anything about proxy servers or the tor network. Just be aware that tor can be slow and you need to trust proxies more than traditional ISP’s because they can be run by anyone.

  13. David From Canada says

    Um… do I say this? If these people can’t get Joe.My.God they should consider themselves Lucky!
    After looking at it quite a few times, I finally came to the conclusion that it is not for sane people. Joe’s militant atheism ruins everything – attracts all the haters, extremists, foul-mouthed crackpots, etc.
    It’s like being sucked into a dark whirlpool. Goodbye Joe!!

  14. charles nau says

    The W hotel in SF does the same thing on the computers in its business center…

  15. greenfuzz says

    Compared to the faux names on here and the constant bickering over whether Madoona or Lady Gaga rules?

  16. Bill says

    @JamesInCA: Semantec would not get into trouble if a user (e.g., the character providing the free wifi) set up the filtering rule.

  17. jimstoic says

    My employer blocks Joe.My.God, but not Towleroad. I suspect they use a filter provided by a third party.