University College London Hospital unblocks access to PinkNews on public wifi

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

The University College London Hospital (UCLH) has removed a block on patients, guests and staff accessing PinkNews, and other LGBT news sites, saying it had not been aware that such websites were blocked.

The wifi at the central London hospital, provided by WifiSpark, included a filtering system, which this week was blocking access to PinkNews and Towleroad.

UCLH has now said the block on accessing websites such as PinkNews would be removed immediately, and said staff had not been aware that LGBT news sites were being barred.

A UCLH spokesman told PinkNews: “We would like to thank Pink News for drawing this to our attention – clearly this is a website which should be available to all of our patients, guests and staff. We have addressed this issue immediately and the site will be available to our WiFi users with immediate effect.”

Despite that UCLH has clarified its position on the category, WifiSpark, which provides the service has not responded to PinkNews questions.

The WifiSpark category used to block LGBT sites, called ‘Sexuality Sites’, was described as intended to block “sites that provide information, images or implications of bondage, sadism, masochism, fetish, beating, body piercing or self-mutilation.”

On the fact that the category was possibly in breach of the Equality Act, the WifiSpark spokesperson offered to whitelist PinkNews. When asked the difference between ‘sexuality sites’ and pornography, she said she could not comment.

The spokesperson said the filtering system was provided by OpenDNS, and that WifiSpark would raise the issue with them.

Earlier this week. internet security provider Norton, responded to criticism of a firewall category named ‘Sexual Orientation’, which had blocked the public from accessing sites such as PinkNews and Stonewall in public spaces, to remove it.

Some franchised branches of coffee giant Costa used the firewall to block such sites under a category named ‘Sexual Orientation’.

In a radio debate with Costa Coffee Managing Director Jason Cotta, Communities Minister Stephen Williams criticised the firewall, and questioned why such a category even existed.

Aid and development charity Oxfam last year 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.