Payday loans companies, online dating networks and companies that manufacture nuclear weapons are amongst those whose websites are banned from Liverpool council computers.
More than 1,000 domain names are blocked by the system, but the reasons for banning some are harder to fathom than others.
While city leaders decided to ban sites such as Wonga and other payday loan companies as part of a political move to try to stop people who were already on very low incomes falling into massive debts, the reasons for vetoes on sites such as one which gives support to asylum seekers and immigrants are less apparent
Another site which city IT bosses have stopped the public getting access to through computers in libraries and council One Stop Shops across the city is that of AWE, the Atomic Weapons Agency.
Its website – awe.org.uk – describes the firm as “working together to keep our world safe and secure by delivering warheads for the UK’s nuclear deterrent. Also through our nuclear expertise, we play a critical role supporting national security.”
A spokesman for the company told the ECHO it was bemused by the ban, adding: “It’s only a corporate website giving information about our company, so that’s a bit odd.
“Maybe there are some words in our name that cause concern rather than the sentiment.”
As well as payday loans sites, Playboy and a number of virtual dressing up sites hosted in Japan have also fallen foul of the council’s censors, as have dating websites and even ones for dental surgery and more mainstream sites such as Facebook.
But Richard Loram, of Liverpool’s Asylum Link, said he was concerned to hear that a site such as HATNews, which focused on issues affecting people in the asylum and immigration system, should be inaccessible.
He added: “I understand that there are programmes that run through looking for certain key words but I wouldn’t have thought ‘asylum’ or ‘refugee’ should be among them.
“But in my experience, having worked in local government, I think this is more of a case of cock-up rather than conspiracy.”
A council spokesman said: “All websites are categorised by our supplier relating to their content, and certain categories such as those with adult content or payday loan companies are automatically blocked.
“Some websites are not categorised or are waiting to be categorised and they are blocked as we do not know if they contain inappropriate material. However, if anybody wants to view a site which they believe should not have been blocked we will consider the request and make it available if considered appropriate.”