U.K.'s Ofcom Accessed Porn 4,000 Times

Sep 30, 2013 1:00 PM PST

LONDON — U.K. media regulator Ofcom has hit porn sites more than 4,000 times in the last 90 days, a think tank investigation has revealed.

Despite Ofcom’s explanation that the reason it logged in 4,234 adult-oriented hits since June 12 was in an effort to protect children from harmful material, watchdog Parliament Street questioned the figure and pointed to staff improprieties.

One member of staff at Ofcom has reportedly been dismissed in the last five years for computer misuse that constituted a “serious breach” of the regulator’s policies, according to Parliament Street. Another employee has been issued with a final written warning for downloading a film.

But Ofcom said neither of these cases related to adult material and said its IT systems captured a diverse range of content of “varying degrees of sexual explicitness,” which could range from The Sun newspaper’s topless page three pin-ups to “explicit pornographic content."

Ofcom further said that  “attempts” to access adult content could have been recorded when an unsuspected porn pop-up appears.

“Some websites are blocked due to them containing certain keywords related to ‘adult’ content — even though the website itself is not an ‘adult’ website — therefore some of the apparent attempts to access ‘adult’ material may be a result of a slightly overzealous security algorithm,” Ofcom, said.

But Steven George-Hilley, director of technology at the think tank said the data raised questions.

“Clearly Ofcom needs to get to grips with this problem to ensure staff know not to try and access explicit content online,” George-Hilley, said.

“As a taxpayer-funded regulator of offensive content, there should be stiff penalties in place for employees who breach corporation guidelines.”

An Ofcom spokesman said, “Ofcom has a statutory duty to protect children from adult content. This requires staff in a range of departments to legitimately access online adult material. The number of times staff have accessed online adult content is consistent with meeting this duty.

“For example, Ofcom’s duty to secure broadcasting standards requires us to access and review online content that is promoted on adult TV channels, to ensure compliance with relevant rules.

“Ofcom is on the board of the U.K. Council for Child Internet Safety, which aims to protect children from access to pornography. We have also been working to ensure that children are protected from pornographic material accessed from mobile devices. It is also important to note that Ofcom’s web filtering program captures images of nudity, such as someone wearing a swimsuit or page three, as well as pornographic content.”


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