No Sex Please – We’re British

It appears that a quarter of UK companies have sacked employees for misconduct involving peeking at online pornography over the Internet, according to a survey from Websens and that 72% of businesses have had to address the uncomfortable reality of Internet abuse or should I call that misuse?

So hands-up anyone who hasn’t ever browsed an “unsuitable” Web site? If this were France or Italy of course, readers would immediately fill the mailbag with their favourites but we’re British, which is why our politicians hide, rather than celebrate their mistresses.

Of course, one problem lies in avoiding sex on the Internet. My Hotmail inbox this morning had eleven emails, even with the spam filter turned-on. One was legitimate correspondence, three were loan offers, four were junk and four were ‘solicitations’ of one kind or another. Increasingly, the latter arrive as HTML, with embedded pictures, so regardless of whether I wish to view a ‘sample’ or not, I can still see it.

Less frequently, a link to what you think is one thing, happens to take you to an entirely different place, which then kicks of a ‘porn storm’ of sex-site windows, as referred to by Edwina’s mother, in the TV comedy, ‘Absolutely Fabulous’.

And then there are site such as Orsm. Awfully popular and its model aeroplane collection makes Playboy look tame but it carries, from time to time, some of the funniest video clips to download, like the Jay Leno “Wassup” Budweiser sketch, featuring Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban.

Naturally, one can’t have people wasting their time browsing photographs of Angelina Jolie’s more attractive features or passing these around the office for the admiration or the embarrassment of colleagues, male and female alike, which is why filtering software is increasingly popular. Even worse of course, is the prospect of an office server being used as repository and distribution point for paedophile collections, a nightmare scenario for any business, which has happened more than once.

Once again, it all comes down to a question of policy and probity. On several occasions over the last three years, I have had to pen and reinforce company policy on web browsing and inappropriate content and this is a difficult issue for each and every employer attached to the Internet. What is acceptable and what is not? Do you forbid flesh tones altogether – which is difficult to monitor and enforce - or do you specify that saving and distributing ‘pornographic images represents unacceptable behaviour?

If 72% of businesses have a problem then its time that employers ‘Came out of the closet’ and started to think clearly and logically about the problem and how best to protect their business interests and those of their staff at the same time. Being British, we are inclined to shrug off the ‘S’ word until it becomes an unavoidable problem in the workplace and I can tell you, that the latest statistics show quite clearly that pornographic Spam now represents the fastest growing nuisance on the Web.

In the interests of setting a good example, I can’t of course browse the more interesting websites from the comfort of my office network, however important my research. I plan instead to advertise for an Italian mistress!


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