Ron Paul & other “controversial” web sites blocked by hotels

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In the wake of the Department of Homeland Security announcing its propaganda partnership with hotels to recruit citizen spies, a loyal reader alerted us that the Sheraton Ferncroft Hotel in Danvers, Massachusetts is blocking access to alternative news websites using a content filter service called IBAHN. The firsthand account of which websites were blocked is as follows:

FYI, this past weekend I attempted to search forInfoWars, ActivistPost & FederalJack using public access computers in the lobby of a hotel run by Sheraton. All three websites were blocked from allowing the public to read or view the websites.

Apparently this Chinese-style Internet censorship is not new for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. In 2006, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel proudly announced a deal to use SonicWALL content filtering service. They were employed by Sheraton to provide “an additional layer of security to protect against today’s most damaging Internet threats.”

More specifically, they “filter inappropriate or unproductive Websites, block .exe attachment files, instant messaging applications and streaming media, and enable a new level of visibility into Internet usage patterns and number and type of sites blocked.”

In 2008, writer and activist Robyn Ochs wasshocked to discover that she couldn’t accessher own website in Sheraton’s Starwood lobby. The hotel, which uses SiteCoach to censor their web content, told her:

The company that installs and maintains the systems have promoted these systems to a kid friendly, family friendly environment. I am sure you can understand that there are several sites on the internet that are viewed as offensive by the general public and for that reason, programs have been developed to ensure that the majority of viewers are met with non-offensive material.

In 2009, Ron Paul supporters reported that the Dulles Sheraton Hotel flagged Campaign for Libertyas containing harmful content. Also using SiteCoach, who cited the forbidden keyword “racist” as the reason for blocking CFL:

A friend checked out of the Dulles Sheraton Hotel yesterday morning. Before leaving to catch his flight, he used the hotel internet service to check the sites that he reads each day. He could not access Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty site. The message ‘Code 451 – The access to the address above is restricted. According to our harmful content database, SiteCoach does not allow you to visit this page’ appeared. When he tried again and held the key down a very brief message appeared that said ‘Forbidden: keyword racist.’

A traveler review on Trip Advisor from earlier this year complained that Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel blocked websites they deemed morally dangerous; ”This hotel also restricts their internet sites, so if you need access to site they find ‘morally’ dangerous to their network, they are blocked.” He rated his stay two stars because of the censorship.

It seems contradictory that they would heavily censor alternative information on a public computer to promote a family friendly environment, while they sell hardcore porn with a click of the remote. Are there any potty-trained kids who don’t know how to use a remote these days? Sheraton apparently believes porn is morally appropriate for their customers, but alternative ideas are harmful and dangerous.

If this type of censorship at a leading hotel bothers you, please make your voice heard. Call or write to the hotel referred to by our reader (see below), or write testimonials on TripAdvisor, Expedia and all other travel sites to express your disapproval. Or simply boycott them and tell them why.

Sheraton Ferncroft Hotel
50 Ferncroft Road
Danvers, MA 01923

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