Internet (1)United States: A popular online safe-search filter has stopped equating mainstream gay and lesbian advocacy groups to obscene sites.

For years, Symantec, the top web-filtering service was blocking links for users hoping to avoid smut.

For this they “conflated gay rights websites with child porn, blocking both from web surfers using safe-search software,”  according to the Associated Press which added that the online security firm  said customers can still set their search to block offensive websites but that there will no longer be an option to block websites just because they relate to sexual orientation.

“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,” Fran Rosch, executive vice president, Norton Business Unit, Symantec, was quoted as announcing.

The move comes after customers at an Au Bon Pain cafe and bakery blogged that they were frustrated because they found human rights campaigns and gay advocacy groups were being grouped together with child porn sites and hence were prevented from clicking on them.

Internet filters are frequently used by anyone offering Wi-Fi in a range of establishments from schools to airports to cafes so as to limit students and patrons from browsing obscene content.

The Associated Press reported that in 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union launched a “Don’t Filter Me” campaign aimed at getting public schools to allow students to look at non-sexual websites about LGBT issues and organizations.

GLAAD, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media advocacy organization were among those that until now were blocked by Symantec’s software.

“It’s time that our software reflects our values, and that means filtering out discrimination,” GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis was quoted as saying.

Symantec’s web-content filtering and parental-control programs, dates to 1996 and is one of the largest in the industry, including billions of Web pages from around the world. Symantec is the fourth-largest software company in the world

Other web-filtering systems such as McAfee and Netsweeper, divide millions of Web addresses into categories such as nudity or war games and then allow network owners to select what categories they want blocked from their systems.

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