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Bristol Council Face Web Filtering Claim

Bristol City Council has come under fire by a local councillor after an attempt to access a gay review site was blocked while using the free wi-fi service in City Hall.

Film maker Christian Martin, a councillor on Bristol City Council, tried to use his employer’s free internet to show a friend a review of his latest film, Cal, but he was stunned when a warning page appeared telling him the site was blocked because it had been categorised as “adult and pornography”.

The film had been due to be shown as part of Bristol Pride, an event supported by the council, from July 5-14.

The deputy leader of Bristol’s Liberal Democrats who represents the Clifton East Ward, said the website – www.gaycelluoid.com – is a well followed review site with no adult or pornographic content.

“I was somewhat dismayed when the screen came up with the warning that the page was blocked – instantly making it appear that I was attempting to access an illicit site,” he said.

“I consider the categorisation of this site by the web monitoring program to be a slur and a prejudice too often and easily rolled out when it comes to films with a gay subject or character or narrative.”

A council spokesman said: “Of course the council has standard filtering software in place to deny access to pornographic websites or content. This is common practice around the country and around the world by free Wi-Fi providers.”

“New websites, web pages and internet content pops up millions of times over on a daily basis, so it would be impossible for an organisation like the council to keep track of which websites should and which shouldn’t be blocked on those grounds. That is why the council relies on a well-respected industry- standard web-blocking service called Palo Alto, which is again commonly used by free Wi-Fi providers for the same purpose.”

“We have no reason whatsoever to believe that the web- site was blocked because it focuses on reviewing films with a gay theme. On looking into the website which Cllr Martin found automatically blocked when using the free Wi-Fi, we have now arranged for it to be unblocked.”