Starbucks, McDonald’s, Among Others, Censor Their Free WiFi — There’s A Disturbing Reason Why The Chains Are Weeding Out Porn

Starbucks, McDonald’s, and other popular chains have begun to actively filter the content that can be accessed over their free WiFi service.

McDonald’s recently announced it has deployed filters on its complimentary WiFi service at its restaurants across the world. However, Starbucks appears to be the latest major chain to declare that its WiFi service will filter X-rated websites, reported CNN.

McDonald’s had insisted that the decision to block explicit online content was taken to protect families and, more specifically, children from sexually explicit content being accessed on the premises. Incidentally, while Starbucks has decided to filter their WiFi, they haven’t begun the process, revealed their official statement.

“Once we determine that our customers can access our free Wi-Fi in a way that also doesn’t involuntarily block unintended content, we will implement this in our stores. In the meantime, we reserve the right to stop any behavior that interferes with our customer experience, including what is accessed on our free Wi-Fi.”

What that essentially means is Starbucks might be actively monitoring what content its customers access when they are sitting in one of the many cafes across the globe. Until the software can take over the process of weeding out websites that offer adult content, the chain might have to rely on older monitoring techniques to prevent access to pornographic websites.

Besides McDonald’s and Starbucks, other chains are currently in the process of implementing filtering technology to block sexually explicit content. Several national restaurant chains that already filter out pornography include Subway, Chick-fil-A, and Panera Bread, reported the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE).

Why are the chains filtering porn on their WiFi? There are no statistics to indicate how many people have accessed pornographic website at public places such as these restaurants, reported the Christian Science Monitor. However, Enough is Enough President Donna Rice Hughes said many Starbuck employees reported they have politely asked quite a few patrons to close the window that had some sexually explicit content in them.

“I’ve asked Starbucks employees whether they’ve had problems with customers in stores watching porn, and they’ve said, yes, that they sometimes have to tap customers on the shoulder to close a website.”

Incidentally, accessing pornographic content doesn’t appear to be a huge problem, but the chains are filtering the content for a very different and far more disturbing reason. Quite a few establishments were used as hubs for exchanging child pornography and served as meeting points to discuss sexual child abuse.

Many chains are worried their restaurants are increasingly becoming a meeting ground for child predators. These people use such public locations to traffic child pornography. Pedophiles have been arrested at such public places in the past for the sexual solicitation of children.

Public WiFi offers a great deal of anonymity, which emboldens these sick criminals. It is quite easy to hide behind the intensely busy network and exchange or access content that would otherwise have been quickly flagged by authorities.

Do these filters work? There is an ongoing debate about the actual efficacy of the filters. Many in the United States, including the American Library Association (ALA), strongly feel that such censorship techniques aren’t just ineffective, they are counterproductive as well. Apparently, many feel the filters commonly consider educational content as objectionable and blocks it.

Some experts argue there are simple techniques to circumvent the filters. Tutorials to bypass digital checkpoints are easily available on platforms that aren’t censored. The ALA released a statement that noted these filters merely offer a false sense of security to the parents that their children are protected from sexually explicit content when they are at these restaurants. The statement concludes that education is way more effective than any filters.

Do you think restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks are merely trying to comply with the expectations of their customers, many of whom are parents to ensure their continued patronage?

[Photo by Patrick Lux/Getty Images]