Staggering Numbers: Parliament’s Embarrassing Porn Habit

UKParliamentby Ben Suroeste, YNOTeurope.com

LONDON – Back in 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron made a solemn vow: “I will do whatever it takes to keep our children safe.” In context, Cameron was talking about internet porn and the need to extensively block and filter such content to keep it out of the hands of Britain’s youth.

After the recent release of statistics regarding Parliament’s own porn surfing habits, however, some Britons are now wondering what (if anything) is being done to keep porn out of the clammy palms of Lords, MPs and staffers down at Westminster.

According to the data, which was released to Express.co.uk in response to a request made under the UK’s Freedom of Information laws, greater than 247,000 attempts to visit porn sites were made on the parliament’s network in 2014 – which is actually a considerable drop from the 350,000+ visits registered in 2013.

A representative of the UK government watchdog group Taxpayers’ Alliance noted that while some of the attempted visits were “no doubt the product of pop-ups beyond anybody’s control,” the sum still is “absolutely staggering.”

“One would hope that those attempting to access these sites at Parliament could keep their extra-curricular activities safely within their own four walls, as it’s not an appropriate use of time when it’s on the taxpayers’ tab,” said Jonathan Isaby, who heads up Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Given the nature of two of the most frequently accessed sites represented in the data, though, the bigger problem with the accuracy of the data might be the active definition of “porn,” rather than the possible contribution of pop-ups, pop-unders, circle-jerk scripts or any of the other well-known traffic traps employed by webmasters and online ad firms.

Even if we’re being generous with the headline writers for various UK media outlets, a cursory look at the specific sites referenced in the data suggests the definition of “porn” in play here is quite a bit broader than what is meant by most people employing the term.

For example, the most ‘popular’ of the banned sites to which parliamentary computers attempted access was SexyMPs.co.uk – a site which ranks the most “beddable” MPs, but hardly qualifies as porn, much less as “hardcore” porn.

Another non-porn site which somehow qualified as porn (according to the British media, at least) is the Urban Dictionary, the entries in which typically don’t depict anything visually, let alone anything pornographic.

When the 2013 data was released, a House of Commons spokesperson said the legislative body did not believe the information provided “an accurate representation of the number of purposeful requests made by network users due to the variety of ways in which websites can be designed to act, react and interact and due to the potential operation of third party software.”

Of course, the biggest question at issue is more fundamental: If members of Parliament and their staff can be trusted to access the web with only “clear boundaries (in place) to discourage inappropriate use,” why can’t the public be so entrusted, as well?

The UK’s current protocol of forcing web users to make a choice on filtration (and filtering by default if they make no choice at all) makes no allowance for homes in which there are no children to protect; if you’re a single adult living alone, you still have to proactively let your ISP know you’d like the unfiltered version of the web.

Given that at least some adults who would like to view and visit adult sites might be understandably reticent to signal this desire to faceless employees of their ISP who could be performing ‘monitoring’ (read: “poking their nose where it doesn’t belong”) of individual user accounts, filtering by default seems both needless and potentially disconcerting to any customer who places a high premium on privacy.

As for Parliament…. Well, if the members therein are anything like their brethren in the U.S. Congress, I say let them watch all the porn they want while on the clock; if nothing else, it might keep them from actually legislating, where they can do real, lasting damage.

After all, there’s no filter for dumb ideas.

About the Author

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Ben Suroeste

Gene Zorkin has been covering legal and political issues for various adult publications (and under a variety of pen names) since 2002.

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