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Starbucks Moves To Block Adult Sites From Free Wi-Fi Networks

Starbucks announced on Thursday it will do next year what it promised to do two years ago — it will begin blocking pornography and illegal content on its free Wi-Fi networks in stores throughout the U.S.

“We have identified a solution to prevent this content from being viewed within our stores and we will begin introducing it to our U.S. locations in 2019,” a Starbucks spokeswoman told NPR in an emailed statement.

She added that, “while it rarely occurs, the use of Starbucks public Wi-Fi to view illegal or egregious content is not, nor has it ever been permitted.” However, despite the ban the company has yet to implement technology to enforce the policy in the U.S. (Starbucks does have Internet filters in place in the U.K., CNN reported.)

The spokeswoman declined to offer details about precisely when and how it plans to make pornographic or illegal content inaccessible in the new year.

The move toward making the coffee shops porn-free follows renewed pressure by the Internet-safety advocacy group Enough Is Enough. It has called for Starbucks to follow through on a 2016 promise to apply Wi-Fi filters at its company-owned stores around the globe.

At the time, a Starbucks spokesperson told CNN it would implement a solution “once we determine that our customers can access our free Wi-Fi in a way that also doesn’t involuntarily block unintended content.”

But after more than two years, Enough Is Enough President Donna Rice Hughes decided it was time for the company to act. On Monday, the group launched an online petition that has since gathered nearly 27,000 signatures.

“Starbucks has had a tremendous opportunity to put its best foot forward in protecting its customers from images deemed obscene and illegal under the law, but they haven’t budged, despite their promise two years ago and despite the fact that they voluntarily filter this same content in the UK,” Hughes said in a statement.

According to NBC News, Hughes told the network she will refrain from celebrating Starbucks’ latest pledge. “They won’t get an applause until they’ve actually implemented safe Wi-Fi filtering,” Hughes said. “This time we’re going to wait and see, and we’re going to keep the pressure on.”