Ofcom staff tried to access porn 4,00 times in three months

Watchdog says figure is consistent with its role in protecting children from harmful material

Staff at the media regulator Ofcom have made more than 4,000 “attempts” to access pornographic material online in the last three months, official figures show.

The watchdog has recorded 4,234 such bids since 12 June - a figure it claims is consistent with its role in protecting children from harmful material.

But a think-tank has questioned the figure and urged the regulator to impose “stiff penalties” where employees are found to have broken rules.

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

Ofcom said neither of these cases related to adult material.

But it said its IT systems captured a diverse range of content of “varying degrees of sexual explicitness,” which could range from The Sun's topless page three pin-ups to “explicit pornographic content”.

However it said “attempts” to access adult content may also be recorded when an employee looks at something seemingly innocent and a pop-up or advertisement appears “originating from somewhere else”. It said one web-page could also generate several “attempts”, meaning figures may be inflated.

“In addition some websites are blocked due to them containing certain key words 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 over-zealous security algorithm, than a colleague trying to access 'adult' content,” it stated.

Steven George-Hilley, director of technology at the Parliament Street think-tank which obtained the figures, said the data raised questions for the watchdog.

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

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

A spokesman for the regulator 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.

“Our duty regarding TV delivered over the internet requires us to access online adult content to assess the adequacy of the restrictions to protect children viewing such material.

“Ofcom is on the board of the UK 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 programme captures images of nudity, such as someone wearing a swimsuit or page three, as well as pornographic content.”

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Guru Careers: Sales Director / Business Development Manager

£35 - 45K + COMMISSION (NEG): Guru Careers: A Sales Director / Business Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee