Dell Reverses Course, Unblocks LGBT Sites from Censorware

you're gay computerGood news from the land of Dell computers: after we reported that their internet-filtering software blocks LGBT-related sites, the company has reversed course and is removing the category from their software.

The problem-program is called “SonicWall,” and is used by organizations keen on censoring access to certain types of sites. You may have run into something like this at a school, or church, or workplace. Because there’s nothing better for morale than your employer telling you that even though they hired you to do a job, they don’t quite fully trust you to do it.

SonicWALL included a category that allowed organizations to block LGBT content, such as We Are Family, “a safe space for LGBTQI and straight ally youth.”

Trend Micro, maker of another web-blocker, has already apologized and removed the homophobic category from their software. And now a Dell rep has assured us that engineers are working on fixing SonicWALL as well.

We can’t fully blame Dell for having the block there in the first place, since the company acquired ownership of the software from another company. And it’s nice to know that they were responsive within a few weeks of the problem being brought to their attention.

And of course, now would be a good time to point out that the company does lots of nice things for LGBT consumers and employees. So, yay for that. Now, if only they could fix the missing .dll files that refuse to update every time our computer crashes…

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  • Dakotahgeo

    Ahhh yes… DELL! Even though I’ve never been blocked by them, I’ve had enough problems with their product to never go DELL again. My computer (DELL!!!) was a gift and it was hooked up with Sprint (which is another ripoff corp.) and needless to say, THEY are no longer in any relationship with my computer! Stay miles away from DELL and Sprint.

  • KittyLitter

    Still ain’t buying dell though. OSX/Bootcamp 4life.

  • oldbrit

    If you’re going to buy a Windows computer, there are many brands that are far better than Dell, HP, or Compag. Starting with the A’s, Asus and Acer come to mind.

  • 2eo

    At least this time you bothered to note SonicWare are not actually Dell. Which if you did your job correctly the first time would have being noted then.

  • oldbrit


    Kitty Litter? Are you one of the fabulous comic drag duo, The Grease Sisters? If so, say hello to Lily White for me.

  • ngblog

    Get a chromebook, Matt. Save the PC for your videos.

  • Ratronaut

    Buying computers is like buying cars — sometimes you get a lemon. And all computer makers produce the occasional lemon. My workplace has bought nothing but Dells for eons and very rarely have problems. My current Dell at home has been running flawlessly for eight years. And no I’m not in any way affiliated with, or some kind of fan of, Dell — just stating the facts. Having said that, I did remove myself from their email list when I first heard of this blocking program and vowed not to buy another Dell, but I will now reinstate myself so I continue to receive their emails. Way to go Dell!

  • viveutvivas

    Heaven help you if you ever have a problem with a Dell product. Their customer service is hell on earth. And their creative accounting to cheat you on returns is highway robbery.

  • QNetter

    OK, let’s get the details correct. (I don’t work for them — I work for another company in the industry.)

    – The product line is called SonicWALL. It is a division of Dell, a company they acquired last year.

    – Its product is not software – at least, in the sense of something you install by yourself on a computer. It is sold as an appliance, a multi-function network security device. It allows you to enable not just firewall capabilities, but anti-virus on the network, anti-spam for email servers behind the box, and other things — including URL/website classification and (potentially) blocking.

    – Web classification and blocking can be used in lots of different ways — there are literally over a hundred potential categories. Some companies block only a few categories that are out-and-out problematic, like adult content, illegal content, or known malware distribution websites. Other companies block almost everything, and whitelist (allow) only a small set of identified sites that people need to do their work tasks. Some do job-specific mixes – for instance, blocking social networking sites for their call-center staff, but allowing it for their marketing folks who maintain the company’s social-marketing presence.

    – Since millions of pages get created every day, trying to classify every piece of Internet content is an impossible task — but it’s also a worthwhile one, since many organizations block unclassified content, which would lock the world down too tightly.

    – The LGBT category was not originally created to allow content to be blocked, curiously enough. It was created to make it easier for sites NOT to block it, in a way. A decade or more ago, a lot of non-sexual LGBT content was misclassified as adult content. To allow the small number of organizations like religious schools who were adamant about the ability to block this content, while removing it from the adult category for everyone else in order to allow it to be accessed by most, the LGBT category was created.

    – That said, the question of whether it’s the right decision for 2013 is a different one from whether it was the right one for 1999 may be a very different one from whether it is the right one for today — in the way that many people still believe Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was the best achievable outcome for the military in the mid-1990s but is totally unacceptable today. Vendors definitely need to look at this and consider alternatives.

    – Given what I said about unclassified sites, just taking the LGBT category away won’t help, because anyone who now allows the LGBT category but blocks unclassified sites would then see sites blocked that weren’t blocked before. So the vendors will need to go through every site in the category and be sure LGBT dating sites are classified as dating sites, LGBT news sites are classified as news sites, etc.

  • QNetter

    Sorry for the bad editing – the next-to-last point should have said: “That said, the question of whether it’s the right decision for 2013 is a different one from whether it was the right one for 1999…”

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