press release (pdf) announcing the move: "No matter where you are in New Zealand, there will be a McDonald’s nearby, which makes us the perfect place to offer this kind of internet service ... you will now have a place where you can stop, grab a bite to eat or coffee and access free WiFi internet."
There's just one problem: if you're trying to access a website dedicated to the LGBT community, chances are it'll be blocked. And that's apparently because McDonald's doesn't view these resources -- which include websites for LGBT youth, for gay news, and for information on health and HIV/AIDS -- as family friendly.
And that has a number of LGBT activists and publications in New Zealand saying that McDonald's should figure out a way to make sure their WiFi service isn't filtering essential material for LGBT folks.
Among the websites blocked by McDonald's is GayNZ.com, which is a leading LGBT news publication in the country (think The Advocate for New Zealand). GayNZ.com issued a statement this week, taking the restaurant chain to task for censoring websites that provide informative, and at times life-saving, information for LGBT folks.
"After so many years of the internet being an integral part of most people's daily lives, an organization such as McDonald's must by now be able to find a more sophisticated way of judging the suitability of actual content for your restaurants rather than just blocking out wholesale an entire site which provides much valuable and family-friendly lifestyle information and service," GayNZ.com writes in an editorial. And they're not alone.
Rainbow Youth, a web site dedicated to providing support and information for LGBT youth, is also blocked. They issued a statement calling on McDonald's to find a better way of filtering web content. "All young people have a right to information about their personal identity and access to being informed about other cultures such as the queer and trans community," wrote the group's director, Tom Hamilton. "In no way would the Rainbow Youth website be inappropriate for a young person to access at any McDonald's restaurant."
Other sites blocked by the restaurant's WiFi service? PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Agender (a support network for transgender New Zealand residents), and Family Planning (a site that gives critical and important information on reproductive and sexual health).
McDonald's, for their part, has told GayNZ.com that they're willing to review web sites on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps that's a good first step, but like GayNZ.com writes, "we ask for fairness, even-handedness and a more sophisticated and net-savvy approach rather than the heavy handed and blunt instrument" that the restaurant is currently using to filter web access. And that's got to be the goal, because blocking harmless yet important LGBT content only reinforces a dangerous misnomer that gay content can't be family friendly or suitable for all audiences. Send the chain a message urging them to work with sites like GayNZ.com, Rainbow Youth, Agender and more to make sure LGBT content is accessible at all restaurants.
petition text -
Dear Mr. Hawthorne and Ms. Ryan,
I recently became aware that McDonald's restaurants in New Zealand are barring certain gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender websites over free WiFi networks, because your company doesn't view these websites as family friendly. I am deeply disappointed in this decision, and urge you to come up with a more sophisticated process for filtering web content.
Indeed, some of the websites blocked include gay news sites (gayNZ.com), websites for LGBT youth (Rainbow Youth), Web sites for gay people and their straight friends and families (PFLAG), web sites for transgender New Zealand citizens (Agender), and websites with critical information on reproductive and sexual health (Family Planning). There is nothing inappropriate about these sites. In fact, in many respects they offer critical and life-saving information, and a valuable social network for LGBT New Zealand citizens.
I urge you to work with these sites, and come up with a process for making sure that gay content can be viewed over McDonald's WiFi service. Barring these sites only reinforces the dangerous message that gay content can't be seen as family friendly or appropriate for public consumption. That couldn't be farther from the truth, and I expect McDonald's, as a leading multinational corporation, to avoid wanting to send that message to customers.
Thanks for your time.
[Your name here]