Business » Corporate

Au Bon Pain Apologizes for Blocking LGBT Sites, Blames Wi-Fi Provider

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday Jan 16, 2014
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Officials from Au Bon Pain took to the fast-casual chain’s Tumblr Wednesday to apologize for blocking its Wi-Fi users from accessing pro-choice and LGBT sites, like EDGE.

"At Au Bon Pain, all of our guests are important to us, and we want to set the record straight regarding misinformation about Wi-Fi access at Au Bon Pain," the post reads. "Foremost, we apologize again for any offense taken by people and communities we count among our friends, family, co-workers, and ourselves."

The Tumblr post goes on to say that Au Bon Pain’s Wi-Fi provider is to blame for blocking the LGBT and pro-choice sites.

"Au Bon Pain offers café guests free Wi-Fi, provided by a Wi-Fi service company we contract," the post reads. "As a standard practice, the Wi-Fi company uses third-party filter software intended to ensure the comfort and safety of our guests by keeping truly objectionable content inaccessible.

"Au Bon Pain did not intend to block reputable sites regarding any LGBT issues, family planning, or any other topics or communities to our guests using Wi-Fi in our cafés," the post continues. "We were unaware the filtering software our Wi-Fi provider uses would block any such sites. When Au Bon Pain learned yesterday these sites were blocked, we immediately contacted our Wi-Fi provider, who disabled the filter so the sites would not be blocked."

Some customers recently complained that they couldn’t access LGBT and pro-choice sites when using the Boston-based cafè’s Wi-Fi. Last week, EDGE reader Stephen Kyle, from Boston, wrote to EDGE that he wasn’t able to access EDGE’s websites while at the restaurant chain.

"I was quite shocked and depressed when, today, Au Bon Pain’s wifi [sic] network blocked EdgeBoston.com," he wrote.

On Wednesday DNAinfo New York reported a similar incident at an Au Bon Pain in Manhattan when a customer tried to load GLAAD’s website on the restaurant’s Wi-Fi, which resulted in the following message:

"This website is not allowed. This website is categorized as Sexual Orientation and is blocked as part of this network’s web content filtering policy."

Maureen Shaw, editor and founder of www.sherights.com, a site about sex education and breastfeeding issues, contacted Au Bon Pain when she discovered her site was blocked by the restaurant’s Wi-Fi filter and categorized it as "pornography."

"We’re not perfect, but will do our best to limit filtering as much as we can," the eatery’s officials wrote on Twitter. "We take this very seriously and want to remedy it best we can."

In a different DNAinfo New York report, the eatery’s officials said they removed the filters Thursday night, blaming the Internet security company Symantec for implementing restrictions to sites categorized as "Abortion" and "Sexual Orientation."

"We’re just the innocent bystanders," an Au Bon Pain spokesperson told DNAinfo New York. "Symantec changed its parameters and didn’t communicate it to their customers."

A spokeswoman for Symantec said the company does not control which sites are blocked. They do, however, give Au Bon Pain the option to block pornography and the ability to share files.

"We don’t have the visibility to see what filters were or weren’t in place," a spokeswoman wrote in an email to DNAinfo New York. She added she believes the chain worked with its Wi-Fi provider to create filters.

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