Huffpost UK Politics uk

MPs, Lords, Commons Staff Under Fire For Accessing Porn Via Parliamentary Network

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MPs, Lords and parliamentary staff have been trying to access porn websites potentially thousands of times, official figures reveal.

Following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the Huffington Post UK, the House of Commons authorities acknowledged that users of the Parliamentary Network servers, including both MPs and their staff, have repeatedly attempted to access websites classed on Parliament's network as pornographic between May 2012 and July 2013.

According to the official figures, the number of attempts to access pornographic websites via the Parliamentary network peaked for 2012 at 114,844 last November and at 55,552 in April for 2013. At least 5,000 people are estimated to be working on the parliamentary estate.

However, the figures have varied wildly, with the peak in attempted access this April more than halving in the following month to just 18,436 this May.

Parliamentary officials indicated that the figures would be inflated by websites automatically refreshing and thus adding to recorded access attempts. Additionally, pop-up or embeddable content like videos and pictures could have a knock-on effect on the number of access attempts recorded.

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This comes after David Cameron pushed for an "opt in" system for viewing online porn.

Attempts to access websites classed as pornography on the Parliamentary Network
  • May 2012: 2141
  • June 2012: 2261
  • July 2012: 6024
  • August 2012: 26,952
  • September 2012: 15,804
  • October 2012: 3391
  • November 2012: 114,844
  • December 2012: 6918
  • January 2013: 18494
  • February 2013: 15
  • March 2013: 22,470
  • April 2013: 55,552
  • May 2013: 18,346
  • June 2013: 397
  • July 2013: 15,707

A House of Commons spokeswoman said the statistics do not prove a user "intended" to access a pornographic website as "a user may access a site that contains optional or automatic links to others, or other "pop-up" arrangements, which are recorded as requests."

However, the spokeswoman declined to respond to the question that such content which would likely be deemed "pornographic" on Parliamentary servers would not be found whilst surfing normal mainstream websites. The spokeswoman was unable to answer why the figure could vary drastically from month to month.

"We are not going to restrict Parliamentarians' ability to carry out research," the spokeswoman added.

This comes after Parliamentarians were revealed to have visited sites like "Out of Town Affairs" on Parliamentary computers, with the site receiving 52,000 hits in seven months.

Parliamentary officials refused to reveal exactly what their servers judge as "pornographic" due to "ICT security".

However, the Huffington Post UK understands that the Venus de Milo statue, depicting the topless Greek goddess, is viewable on Parliament's network.

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, told HuffPost UK: “These figures highlight the fact that many people working in Parliament are spending far too much time on websites that have nothing to do with their job.

“The internet can be a useful tool for MPs and their staff when it comes to scrutinising Government legislation; however taxpayers expect their MP and those working in their offices to get on with their important jobs rather than spending time surfing questionable websites.

“It’s important that these figures are in the public domain so that taxpayers can see exactly how the time they are paying for is actually being spent.”