How Big Is the SEC's Porn Problem?

So what was the Securities and Exchange Commission doing while the economy fell to pieces?

At least a few SEC employees were viewing pornography on their government-issued computers, according to media and government reports.

The Washington Times broke the story in February, but media blog Gawker reported Wednesday that it obtained 16 reports of investigations into SEC employees who spent as much as 1 1/2 hours a day accessing Internet sites such as skankwire.com, pokeoftheday.com and sexyavatars.com.

Gawker said that over the past two years, more than a dozen employees and contractors have tried to access porn on government computers at least 8,273 times.

According to a 2008 semiannual report to Congress from the SEC inspector general, the agency completed five porn-related investigations and inquiries between April and September of that year.

Report: SEC Supervisor Admitted Porn-Related Activities

In one case, the report said, an employee tried hundreds of times to access pornographic sites and was denied access. When he used a flash drive, he successfully bypassed the filter to visit a "significant number" of porn sites.

The employee also said he deliberately disabled a filter in Google to access inappropriate sites. After management informed him that he would lose his job, the employee resigned.

A similar SEC report for October 2008 to March 2009 said that a regional supervisor in Los Angeles accessed and attempted to access pornographic and sexually explicit Web sites up to twice a day from his SEC computer during work hours.

Over the course of 17 days, the report said, the supervisor received about 1,880 access denials for inappropriate Web sites. The supervisor also admitted to saving numerous pornographic images to his work hard drive and acknowledged that his porn-related activities may have interfered with his work. According to the SEC, the supervisor was reprimanded.

SEC: Agency Uses Sophisticated Surveillance Systems to Detect Internet Abuse

The reports said that in other cases, the employees faced suspensions or no disciplinary action at all.

In a statement, SEC spokesman John Nester said he couldn't comment on the specific situations, but emphasized that the indiscretions were uncovered because the SEC has systems in place to prevent and address these kinds of Internet violations.

"We use sophisticated surveillance and filtering systems and constantly update them to detect indications of possible abuse," he said. "Indeed, each of the cases investigated by the Inspector General was detected by our surveillance systems and referred to the Inspector General for investigation."

He added that misusing government resources for inappropriate purposes is "a matter of serious concern." In addition to Web-filtering systems, he said the SEC provides comprehensive training on the proper use of the Internet.

When SEC employees abuse Internet access, he said, supervisors look at each incident on a case-by-case basis and respond with sanctions ranging from counseling to dismissal.

Nielsen: Average Visit From Work Computer Is 13 Minutes

Human resources experts said that these examples at the SEC provide just a window into the larger, persistent problem of porn in the workplace.

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