Censoring of Internet Access on B.C. Ferries Filters Out Sexual Health Issues

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Source: The Globe and Mail – By Mark Hume

BC Ferries might be in hot water for censoring Internet access on its ships, but the corporation isn’t having any doubts about its decision to filter out sites that deal with sexual education.

BC Ferry Mayne Queen

BC Ferry Mayne Queen

“No second thoughts. No, we won’t be changing our policy,” BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said Thursday. “We’re censoring pornography.”

The BC Civil Liberties Association has criticized BC Ferries for blocking customers from using the on-board WiFi service to access any sites that deal with sexual health issues, including those containing information about abortion.

Ms. Marshall said that is happening because BC Ferries is using software that filters out all sites with sexual material.

“Basically we are using an industry standard blocking software that blocks a number of different categories, and sex education and abortion do fall under that,” she said.

Ms. Marshall said the concern is that someone in a public area could be looking at a site that other passengers might find upsetting.

“It’s totally your business what you look at privately. … the concern is we are in a public place, there are families around … and if you are surfing in the cafeteria, there are minors there, or someone who might be offended by it,” Ms. Marshall said.

BC Ferries is offering WiFi service aboard its vessels in a pilot project to see how interested people are in getting Internet access at sea.

WiFi service is offered at the Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen terminals, and in most passenger lounges aboard the vessels – Spirit of B.C., Spirit of Vancouver Island, Queen of New Westminster and Coastal Celebration.

Ms. Marshall said BC Ferries has been receiving a lot of feedback on its Internet restriction policy.

“It has been mixed,” she said of the public reaction. “We’ve heard from both sides. Some people are concerned that we are censoring, but we’ve had a lot of people thanking us for upholding family values and just saying, you know, if people want to do that on their own time that’s fine, but they just don’t need to do it in a public place, like a B.C. ferry.”

BC Ferries also keeps a tight rein on the printed material that’s available in onboard shops.

“We do have a non-controversial clause on the books that we have in our gift shop. Any magazine that might be questionable would be up high and the covers would be covered by the rack. … no nudity and things like that,” she said.

BC Ferries ran into some censorship criticism last year for refusing to carry in its gift shops Annabel Lyon’s award-winning novel, The Golden Mean. It’s sin? The book cover featured a picture of a naked man lying face down on the back of a white horse.

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