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Tim Hortons blames website censorship on vendor after boycott threatened

Friday, July 19, 2013
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TORONTO — Tim Hortons, the Ontario-based coffee and doughnut house with more than 3,500 locations in Canada and the U.S., said Friday it has lifted a block of a popular Canadian LGBT news website from its in-store Wi-fi under pressure from gay rights advocates who vowed to launch a boycott of the chain.

Earlier Friday, Daily Xtra, the online version of Xtra, a free LGBT newspaper distributed in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, reported that Tim Hortons had blocked access to its website from his restaurants, claiming “it is not appropriate for all ages viewing in a public environment.”

Xtra’s Editor-In-Chief, Brandon Matheson told LGBTQ Nation that when he received complaints from its readers that his site was blocked, he contacted Tim Hortons, thinking the block may have been the result of third-party software that uses web crawlers to compile a list of offensive websites by screening for key words. Usually, sites that are blocked in error must be manually removed.

But when Xtra contacted Tim Hortons to request that the block be lifted, it received this reply:

“We are writing to inform you that your request to unblock the requested website has been declined. We have reviewed this site’s content and have found that it is not appropriate for all ages viewing in a public environment. We try to ensure that all of our guests can enjoy a safe and pleasant experience when visiting us. We look at all of these types of requests in detail in order to provide the most latitude we can while keeping our restaurants a friendly environment.

“While there is no way to change this decision, we can assure you that it was not an easy decision to make.”

On Friday afternoon, a few hours after Xtra contacted the Canadian Press wire service and Twitter users began promising to boycott the coffee shops, Tim Hortons spokeswoman Michelle Robichaud apologized on behalf of the company and blamed a third-party service provider for the error and the resulting miscommunication.

Daily Xtra “shouldn’t have been blocked, in fact we’re working on unblocking it, it may already be unblocked, it should’ve never been blocked in the first place,” Robichaud told the Canadian Press.

Robichaud said the email reply Xtra received came from the company’s WiFi vendor, who was at fault for the error and subsequent “miscommunication.”

Xtra said it accepted Tim Hortons’ apology and that the chain made the right decision to ensure the block was lifted.

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