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Starbucks, the chain of coffee shops where you have to queue twice for a cup of coffee and where they pretend to be a friendly local company by asking for your name, has blocked access to the OutNewsGlobal website from its in-store wifi, adding to concerns about “rainbow-washing” in the LGBTQ+ community.

Chief correspondent Steven Smith was trying to log on to from a Starbucks outlet in Brighton, widely acknowledged as Britain’s LGBTQ capital, when  he was greeted an error message indicating that the site was blocked because of pornography/sex. OutNewsGlobal, while featuring non-pornographic content about sex and relationships, has never featured pornography or nudity, and the content in our sex section is comparable to that regularly found in dozens of women’s magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, whose websites are not blocked by Starbucks.

The error message indicating our site is blocked for pornography/sex. The helpdesk number does not work.

As Editor, I have tried to address this issue with Starbucks but have failed to get a response. The press office’s phone number on Starbucks UK’s website went straight to voicemail and, although I left a detailed message, I have get to receive a response. The phone number on the error message appears not to be working at all.

At a time where concerns about “rainbow-washing”, where corporations jump on the LGBTQ+ bandwagon – especially in Pride season – but do little else for the community, are gaining more traction, blocking access to a legitimate, long-established LGBTQ+ website for reasons of pornographic content plays into the longstanding homophobic trope that “gay” equals “porn”. In the past, this damaging misconception has led to homosexuality being conflated with paedophilia which, in turn, has prompted discrimination, violence and abuse.

A small rainbow flag behind the counter at Starbucks in Brighton

Under the banner of “Pride Heritage Month” Starbucks is keen to burnish its LGBTQ+ credentials, while the Starbucks Pride Network’s Twitter account is positively creaking under the strain of pro-LGBTQ+ posts.

In 2020, Starbucks won a Diversity in Advertising award.

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Rob Harkavy

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