Safe-Search Filter Lifts Block On LGBT Advocacy Sites

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A popular online safe-search filter is ending its practice of blocking links to mainstream gay and lesbian advocacy groups for users hoping to avoid obscene sites.

For several years, top Web-filtering services have been resolving a security over-reach that conflated gay rights websites with child porn, blocking both from web surfers using safe-search software. Now Symantec, one of a handful of key players in the content-filtering market, is joining the push.

Online security firm Symantec told The Associated Press that while customers can still set their search to block offensive websites, there will no longer be an option to block websites just because they relate to sexual orientation.

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"Making this change was not only the right thing to do, it was a good business decision," said Fran Rosch, executive vice president, Norton Business Unit, Symantec in a Tuesday announcement. "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."

Symantec’s shift, which came after customers at an Au Bon Pain cafe and bakery blogged in January that the free Wi-Fi was blocking access to advocacy groups, is the latest in a series of Internet-filter revamps prompted after frustratedWeb searchers found human rights campaigns and gay advocacy groups were being grouped together with child porn sites by some Web-content monitors, which then prevented users from clicking on them.

Internet filters are mandatory in most public schools and libraries, and they are frequently used as well by anyone offering Wi-Fi, from airports to cafes. They can limit students and patrons from browsing obscene or inappropriate content. But many of those filters have blocked appropriate and important content.

More at Talking Points Memo  »>

Laverne Cox and her mother on stage at the 2014 GLAAD Media Awards.

Laverne was honored with this year’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which is given to an openly LGBT member of the entertainment or media community for his or her work toward eliminating discrimination against the LGBT community. Previous winners include Ellen DeGeneres, Chaz Bono and Wanda Sykes.

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Many of you know that I officially came out on Valentine’s Day. One of the best things about it was the way it enabled me to publicly show support for the people who inspire me and give me courage, and I’m here to do just that tonight for one of my heroes, Laverne Cox.”

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