Oxfam says firewall blocking access to PinkNews was accidental and allows access to site

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

Aid and development charity Oxfam has responded to a report from PinkNews which found that access to LGBT news sites was being blocked from terminals operated by the charity, to say that it was the result of an automated firewall, and is not company policy.

Last week, a staff member at a local branch of an Oxfam charity shop contacted PinkNews to say that she was unable to access the site, as well as Towleroad, a US LGBT news site. She asked PinkNews not to publish the location of the shop or her name.

The firewall page sent by the staff member detailed the category which is blocked as “Sexuality sites”, and the reason for blocking is because the “content of type= sexuality”.

Speaking to PinkNews at the time, a member of the Oxfam press team confirmed that she was also unable to access some websites, but said it was unclear why such a block was in place.

The charity has now issued a statement denying any policy blocking such websites, and saying that an automated firewall was to blame for the block, which has now been removed.

An Oxfam spokesperson said: “Oxfam does not have a policy of blocking gay and lesbian news websites nor do we discriminate against people who wish to access them. Our policy is to protect staff by preventing access to sexually explicit sites – occasionally this results in sites being wrongly blocked by our automated firewall.

“We regret the fact that on this occasion a shop volunteer was prevented from accessing PinkNews. PinkNews has since been unblocked.”

At the time, Benjamin Cohen, the publisher of PinkNews said: “Given that PinkNews regularly reports on the issues affecting LGBT people in the developing world, where Oxfam operates, it is important that its staff are aware of the situation on the ground. It is particularly important for LGBT staff considering postings in these countries to be able to access up-to-date information about the legal and social situation for LGBT people in the developing world.”

The charity Oxfam is one of the biggest and most well known charities in the UK, and operates many global campaigns and hundreds of charity-run shops across the country.