Censorship of Wine-Related Websites on Railway Wifi Connections

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Mark Crann, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. Travelling by train between Yorkshire & London yesterday, I was astonished to discover that I could not access the forum, nor any other wine-related websites. About half of the sites were specifically blocked for a given reason, namely "Alcohol", and the remainder were simply unavailable.

    Similarly, I could not access the National Lottery website, although no explicit reason was given. Presumably gambling is viewed by the moral purists responsible for this censorship in the same way as they view alcohol:eek:!

    All other websites were fully accessible, including Google, but if I tried to access any wine-related website through Google, the same barriers were in place.

    I was travelling on Grand Central, but I wonder if this is a policy which is being visited on travellers by other rail companies as well? It may be a policy of the train company's ISP/Wifi Provider, rather than that of the train company itself. After all, the train company happily sells wine, and many other alcoholic drinks, to passengers, and places no restrictions on passengers travelling with their own supplies of alcohol.

    Has anyone else encountered this unwelcome censorship? Does it also apply in airports, or in other public places where wifi is needed to access the internet? I could understand the implementation of a block on several types of website (e.g. porn), but blocks on wine sites (and the National Lottery) seem absurd to me.
  2. Mark - I have seen it but not recently. These days I use a VPN (TunnelBear) or TOR to ensure my browsing isn't monitored or restricted in such a fashion!
  3. But can you access your VPN from a train, Lionel? I have always assumed that the only way to get the internet from a train is through the train company's wifi system. Perhaps that is wrong?
  4. I once had the embarrassment of having to ask hotel reception if they would turn off the "adult filter" so I could access wine websites. Of course the hotel sold wine, and the irony was that I wanted to check what to order from their wine list.
    Leon Marks likes this.
  5. It may well have been the consequence of restricting access to pornographic websites on the train, the consulting of which in public is something unfortunately not unusual and sometimes upsetting to others in the vicinity. Though why wine should be in that category is as much a mystery as America's department of 'alcohol, tobacco and firearms'.
  6. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    A pain in the backside. I have had two small victories complaining about this on the grounds that I could not access my own businesses web sites to update them, with BA's wifi in their lounges and with Glasgow Airport's wifi. In both cases the restriction was lifted for my web sites, but it's ridiculous that their filtering is so crude - or indeed necessary at all. Over-cautious and unnecessarily so in my opinion.
  7. Mark - yes - you run over their connection but your content is 'hidden' from view. TOR in particular was intended for cases like this - it's a popular one with dissidents in places like China.
  8. I've had no problems accessing this forum on SW trains. The usual inconsistency we have come to expect from our train providers
  9. I regularly visit this site on my train journey, but I gave up using the Southern and Thameslink Internet as the service is so slow, and I have a good data package. I don’t know that they can block anything if you are just using data?

    I have had issues in airport lounges for sure. Alcohol sites, I’ve discovered, are a definite no in Turkish and some Arab airports.
  10. No problem in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. :)

    The only place I’ve seen that blocks booze is the doctors/hospital I go to.
  11. It'll be to do with the firewalls that have been implemented on these networks. It's quite common for them to have content filters, and alcohol is one of the common categories (as in gambling, mentioned above). Having worked extensively on alternatives to the way that internet is distributed on trains, I can assure you all that the providers are exactly the kind of monolithic organisations you'd expect train companies to get into bed with! Sadly there's very little innovation going on in this space and the symptoms that David mentions are common place, despite there being a lot of technology that could improve things.
  12. Surely you just need to get your own mobile internet service so you're not reliant on third party wi-fi?
  13. The filters on many open wi-fi systems are aimed at protecting children from access, hence the block on alcohol an gambling sites.
  14. The very fact that operators provide internet access demonstrates that it isn't that simple, unfortunately.
  15. The NTC in Roehampton put a block on all wine related sites. The reason? Alcohol.
  16. No problem on Southern. Sorry to hear about China Rail no sorry Grand Central. What do the censors in their infinite wisdom think they are going to achieve? As far as I am aware access to the web does not in itself allow one to indulge in alcohol abuse. Maybe reading about alcohol is the danger to our health that warrants protection? I guess by the same logic reading about war in a military history book could be far more dangerous?
    Mark Crann likes this.
  17. Just so, Graham. It is the overbearing controlling mentality I object to, without any legal sanction to support it, and without any logical justification. It is the same mindset that imposes audible seat-belt warnings in cars, depriving you of your own judgment as to when you need to wear a seatbelt (without digressing too far, there are circumstances, especially off-road and in rural usage, when using a seat-belt is positively undesirable). Happily a simple computer instruction is available to disable the audible warning, leaving the visual warning unaltered, which is fine. But the trick is to find out what that computerised instruction is, which usually involves threatening to buy a rival make of car, before the dealer is prepared to defy the manufacturer's prohibition on silencing the audible part of the warning!

    For the reason Tom gives above, I would readily accept a block on porn, and other recognisably offensive sites which would or might well upset fellow passengers, even though that block has no strictly legal foundation. I would also accept an opt-in window for wine and gambling sites, such as the one still operated by Justerini & Brooks, asking you to confirm you are over 18 before entering the site. But the mindless censorship mentality which this blanket practice discloses is completely unacceptable.
    Graham Harvey likes this.
  18. Cheap routers / firewalls or lazy sys admins will have low level generic blocks so lots of things will get caught up in the categories.
    I was on a boat once that wouldn’t allow me to read the racing post or study form as it’s classified as gambling yet at the time there was no gambling from it. Their aim was to block gambling websites .

    Making an effort is fine but they should have better setups and flexibility though it’s easy to get around. A vpn app or pop onto 4G and hotspots if available.
  19. The newspapers are full of sex and scantily clad females. Wonder why they don’t ban those?
    You are right, of course, that if something is not illegal we should be allowed to do it, although I suppose that includes things prohibited by bye-laws (such as street drinking in some locations).

    Perhaps it should be illegal in any case to watch porn in a public place where others might see you. There are, after all, laws which restrict open air love making, but as far as I’m aware, utilising the onboard toilet facilities in a train or plane is merely an inconvenience for other users.

    What I find sad, being of a certain age, is to see how our society seems to have gone backwards in some regards in relation to personal freedom (whilst moving forward in others). The attitudes towards alcohol from the authorities is a case in point.

    It seems to me that using the wholly admirable wish to address alcoholism as a way to push a Puritan neo-prohibition agenda is fairly typical of a certain attitude across society’s self appointed morality police towards personal choice at a much less harmful level.

    It’s just my own view, based on my broad view of live and let live, and a hatred of coercion. Of course some of you will object to that based on the cost to the NHS and the families involved. I can only say that I’m not talking about alcoholism, just about the chance to enter a debate on a wine forum with friends, or to check whether a retailer has a wine in stock before I make a pointless journey.

    If there is harm in that then you can guess which side has won.
  20. Tom Cannavan

    Tom Cannavan Administrator

    It's incredibly stupid: the law is there to stop 15 year olds buying alcohol, not looking at web sites. It's highly debatable whether blocking alcohol-related web sites is sensible, but what is undeniable is the crude way it is being applied - if a site has the word "wine" in it name or content it appears to be automatically banned. Just exactly what is dangerous to the average 15 year old about wine-pages or Jancis Robinson's site?
  21. The odd thing about this neo-puritanism is that it is at odds in many ways with what the original puritans were about. They were a pain in the neck in various ways, but were in no way against alcohol. In fact they frequently based their movements on the inns and taverns in which they met.
  22. I was most annoyed when I wanted to watch hardcore pornography on the train, but they wouldn't let me.
    Health and Safety Gone Mad!
    Davy Strange and Ben Coffman like this.
  23. The restriction does seem draconian and without precedent in other areas. Although the Advertising Standards Authority code is clear that alcohol advertising should not be targeted at under 18s, there are currently no restrictions on showing TV adverts pre-watershed, nor on alcohol sponsorship of sport.
  24. Or wideworldofwine.co ;)
  25. It all sounds very familiar and a re-run of what happened some years ago with public networks. That was due to everybody buying off-the-shelf filtering solutions (actually American though I doubt if we would have made a more coherent job of it). Remember the "Scunthorpe" filtering farce? It sounds as though the same has happened here, though given the alcohol obsession, maybe it's French software - ?

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