UK: Smartphones automatically block PinkNews and other LGBT news sites

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Several mobile phone providers have blocked Pink News and other LGBT interest websites as part of the automatic settings that are programmed into smartphones.

The Telegraph reports that mobile providers are blocking websites that deal with issues such as LGBT rights, feminism, and political satire as “mature content”, even if the websites do not contain any nudity, pornography, or offensive material.

As the blocks are automatic it can be difficult for users to know whether sites are being blocked from appearing in search engine results on their phone.

Although users who are aware of the block can request that their provider change the phone’s setting to unblock content, for many users this is not a viable option.

Workers whose smartphones are provided by their employer may feel uncomfortable requesting to have the blocks removed, as they may be “assumed to be using [their] work phone to look for porn” by their company,” the Telegraph notes.

To change the settings, it is generally required that a user has to be over 18 years of age.

However, such a requirement may pose a problem to LGBT youngsters, who could be seeking sexual health advice, or simply greater knowledge about their sexuality, but are relucant to confide with their parents.

In 2010, Pink News reported that T-Mobile had been accused of blocking gay websites. Readers then flagged O2, 3, Virgin and Vodafone as also blocking access to sites.

In response, T-Mobile said it would never “actively block material based on sexual orientation.”

It says on its website that its Content Lock system, which prevents access to “18-rated material and unmoderated content involving, gambling, dating, visual material of a sexual nature adult only content” is one of the industry’s “most advanced filtering tools.”