Panera’s Weird WiFi Filtering

David Sewell writes: “There has been a lot of grumbling about the fact that Panera uses the SonicWALL Internet content filtering service to block access to sites that patrons might deem objectionable. Problem is, it doesn’t just block graphic porn sites: it blocks, for example, sites that SonicWALL categorizes as “Cult/Occult”. These include innocuous sites like the parodic Church of the Subgenius, and freethought sites like the Brights Network and the Universist Movement. On the other hand, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family website is for some unknown reason currently put into “Category 46 – Vehicles”!

If you want to play with checking different sites’ SonicWALL rating: http://www.sonicwall.com/products/cfs.html (form on right-hand side)”

I see that my personal site is a “Usenet News Group,” and that cvillenews.com is, sadly, “Gambling.” In fact, every single site that I checked is wrongly listed. Good for Panera for offering free WiFi. But I could do without the censorware.

3 Responses to “Panera’s Weird WiFi Filtering”


  • Just a followup–the blocked website where I first saw this being discussed reported that they got a prompt response from Panera to their complaint about the blocking, but they haven’t yet received official notice that the filtering service has recategorized them.

    The basic problem is that the content filtering services rely heavilly on “artificial intelligence” decisions about the content of sites, hence all the stupid categorizations. Human intervention occurs mainly when someone complains about being blocked.

    To those who will observe, “Panera’s offering a free service; they have a perfect right to limit it as they see fit”: yes, but…: if you are, say, a local business owner whose location offers unfiltered free Internet access, you might think it a tad unfair that Panera promotes its “Free Wi-Fi Access” when it’s not equal to what you’re offering.

  • What is Panera?

  • “Panera bread” is a store that doesn’t sell bread unless you buy it with things sandwiched between them. But I guess “Panera bread with things sandwiched between them” didn’t fit on the sign. So they filtered it. They’re all about filtering there.

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