MANHATTAN — The sandwich chain Au Bon Pain blocks Manhattan customers who use the shop's wireless Internet from seeing websites about gay advocacy, family planning and other hot-button issues.
Attempts to use the WiFi on Monday to search the Internet for GLAAD.com, the official website of a well-known gay and lesbian rights organization, were met with an error message that read: "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."
The same thing happened when a reporter tried to log into websites run by groups from both sides of the abortion debate.
Au Bon Pain's filtering software shut down the website ProLife.com with the message, "This website is categorized as Abortion and is blocked."
Attempts to search for the reproductive rights website sherights.com were also blocked, but the error message was different — it was blocked as "pornography," according to the filter.
“We write about sexuality and sexual education and breastfeeding. That’s the only thing I can come up with,” said sherights.com editor and founder Maureen Shaw, who said she was alerted to the issue on Monday.
Shaw called the content blocker “completely unacceptable.”
“Abortion shouldn’t be flagged as anything warranting blocking. Every citizen has a right to access information,” Shaw said.
Shaw reached out to the chain on Twitter Tuesday, expressing concern.
Au Bon Pain replied to Shaw’s concerns on Twitter Tuesday morning, writing, “We want our cafes to be welcoming places for everyone & will do all we can to make sure every cafe holds up that standard."
"We're not perfect, but will do our best to limit filtering as much as we can," the eatery wrote on their official Twitter account. "We take this very seriously and want to remedy it best we can.”
Calls to Au Bon Pain reps for comment were not immediately returned.