No Porn For Parliament, But Not For Lack of Trying

LONDON – You know the old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” When it comes to computers associated with the UK Parliament trying to access pornographic websites, it appears this axiom applies roughly 160 times per day.

According to data obtained by the Press Association in a freedom of information request, computers and other devices connected to the parliamentary network reportedly made 24,473 attempts to connect to porn sites between June and October of 2017.

A parliamentary spokesperson claimed the majority of the attempts to connect to porn sites were not deliberate, and suggested there’s less to this data than meets the eye.

“All pornographic websites are blocked by parliament’s computer network,” the spokesperson said. “The vast majority of attempts to access them are not deliberate. The data shows requests to access websites, not visits to them.”

The spokesperson also noted the computers on the network are used by a massive number of people, and the data contained in the FOI request could include connection attempts made by non-governmental users.

“There are 8,500 computers on the parliamentary network, which are used by MPs, peers, their staff and staff of both Houses,” the spokesperson said. This data also covers personal devices used when logged on to parliament’s guest wifi.”

In any event, the report comes at an inopportune moment for a government already trying to distance itself from reports of sexual impropriety and harassment by its current and former members.

The revelation of attempted parliamentary porn-surfing comes on the heels of the forced resignation of cabinet member Damian Green, who was found to have offered “inaccurate and misleading” statements to investigators who were looking into porn Green allegedly had on his government-issued computers. Green was also investigated for sexual impropriety alleged by journalist Kate Malby, but investigators found it was “not possible to reach a definitive conclusion on the appropriateness of Mr. Green’s behavior” toward Malby.

Several MPs recently have been accused of engaging in sexual misconduct, as well, among a spate of accusations and incidents which came to light late last year.

It’s unclear what (if anything) will come of the data revealed in the Press Association’s recent FOI request, but there’s also some good news, of sorts, to be found in the figures: According to the data, the number of connection attempts reported decreased significantly in 2016 compared to 2015. In 2016, the filtering system blocked only 113,208 such connection attempts, a drop from 213,020 in the previous year.

Maybe there’s a limit to that “try, try again” axiom, after all.

 

Parliament Image © Bren Leslie

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