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Symantec removes ‘Sexual Orientation’ firewall category following PinkNews report

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Firewall provider Symantec has again announced that it is removing a firewall category which blocks LGBT sites such as PinkNews, following complaints.

The ‘Sexual Orientation’ category of Symantec’s firewall Norton, blocked sites such as PinkNews, Stonewall GLAAD and the Trevor Project.

Symantec told PinkNews in June that it would be removing the category altogether, after it became clear that despite containing no adult or explicit content, both PinkNews and Stonewall were in the banned category.

Some franchised branches of coffee giant Costa used the firewall to block such sites under the category.

Smaller chain Joe & the Juice tweeted in the face of similar criticism to say that it had not been aware that its firewall, also provided by Norton, contained such a category, and said it did not condone blocking such content.

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.

A press release from Symantec this week read: “This update, which is in the process of being implemented at the product level, will mean that LGBT-related web content will be evaluated, categorized, and treated the same as other news, political and entertainment content.”

Fran Rosch, executive vice president, Norton Business Unit, added: “Having a category in place that could be used to filter out all LGBT-oriented sites was inconsistent with Symantec’s values and the mission of our software. Inclusion is a key factor in our company’s culture and it’s important that our products meet that same standard. We’re taking a broader look at all of the categories in this database, and will be eliminating any others that are similarly outdated.”

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.

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