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Government Idle Science

Porn Surfing Rampant At US Science Foundation 504

Posted by samzenpus
from the when-science-gets-dirty dept.
schwit1 writes "The Washington Times reports, 'The problems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) were so pervasive they swamped the agency's inspector general and forced the internal watchdog to cut back on its primary mission of investigating grant fraud and recovering misspent tax dollars.' One senior executive at the National Science Foundation spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer, records show. The cost to taxpayers: up to $58,000. Why aren't they running a product like Websense?"

*

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Porn Surfing Rampant at US Science Foundation

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  • bad idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:30AM (#29581879) Homepage
    no, not using gov't computers for porn. that's fine by me...

    that the guy almost used a "think of the children" defense for his actions. now THAT's fucked up.

    these young women are from poor countries and need to make money to help their parents

    • Re:bad idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by chrb (1083577) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:36AM (#29581995)

      I have known people who look at porn at work, but I find it difficult to be outraged about it. Why? Those guys are paid to do a job, supposed to be 9-5 but the porn entertainment tended to be a way of relaxing when they were still in the office working at 10pm. Nobody actually cared, even the bosses, because the employees were being paid to do a job, which they did well. As long as watching porn doesn't impact your work or offend colleagues, then why should it be considered any worse than surfing YouTube, Facebook, or even Slashdot? It's just pictures of people having sex.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by COMON$ (806135)
        Whereas I am not for pornography in the workplace (Porn causes phych issues). I do agree with your underlying argument. In workplaces we need to get away from the idea that if I sit at my desk for 8 hours I am productive. Rather we need a concept of whether or not the employee is doing work. I know people who surf half the day and still do 3x the work as the 9-5ers. This is especially so in gov't institutions.
        • Re:bad idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jidar (83795) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:55AM (#29582269)

          Porn causes psych issues? Perhaps it just exposes them, particularly in people who judge people for looking at porn.

          • Re:bad idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:35PM (#29582871)

            Psych problems with other people daring to have sex (and fun in general without permission from various control freaks) have been at the root of nearly all imbecilic religious woo-woos and the subsequent witch-hunts by the fanatics of the said woo-woos since times immemorial, but they have truly and completely gone full-tilt mental with the raise of the Judeo-Christian flavours of lunacy.

            Thus it is no surprise that maiming and killing people is considered "moral" and "necessary in bringing Enlightenment, Freedom (to buy our products and make us rich) and Democracy (to elect friendly to our interests leaders)" while sex, particularly amongst younger people, is an "evil", "sin" and "immoral", to be punished, with prejudice and by extreme measures, for life (e.g. the "sexual offender lists"). Ripping a girl's hands and feet off by a 500lb bomb is a sad by-product of a "good deed", but seeing her enjoy sex is the very bottom of the pit of moral depravity.

            But because sex sells, the Western culture is getting increasingly positively schizophrenic about it, on one hand trying to please the Mammon (into worship of which all of the Judeo-Christian flavours of woo have morphed) and at the same time trying to reconcile the woo-fanatics' psychotic attitudes towards the fact that they are all mammals, no matter how much they pretend that evolution did not occur.

            And if you add to this the fact that other branches of Judeo-Christian idiocy, i.e. the Muslim-medieval kind, are even more rabidly insane, the majority of human societies on Earth are, to use a topic-relevant term: fucked up beyond description, with no relief in sight.

            • Re:bad idea... (Score:4, Interesting)

              by swb (14022) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:53PM (#29583971)

              If you can control their sex and their economics, they are at your disposal.

              I will cut religion one small break, though. I think most cultures have rules regarding sexual behavior; the problem is, we're not living in 5th century Europe where the major provider of social order as long as anyone can remember, the Roman Empire, is collapsing and we need some rules to live by other than fucking anything you can get your hands on.

              In an ancient civilization, the rules help keep the order. Unwanted offspring create succession problems (which in those civilizations is often a political problem, too), lack of sexual restraint can lead to your wife or daughter getting raped, and then there's the question of what to do with the women and the unwanted offspring.

              The problem is they keep trying to enforce rules that maybe made sense in rural Europe in the 6th century in the 21st century when technology generally has solved the unwanted offspring problem and better socialization largely encourages people to not use violent means to satisfy their desires, sexual or otherwise.

              • Re:bad idea... (Score:4, Informative)

                by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @03:42PM (#29585267)

                In an ancient civilization, the rules help keep the order. Unwanted offspring create succession problems (which in those civilizations is often a political problem, too), lack of sexual restraint can lead to your wife or daughter getting raped, and then there's the question of what to do with the women and the unwanted offspring.

                I have to disagree.

                Your response is simply a demonstration of how deeply ingrained the Judeo-Christian woo has become in the world-view of people brought up under its ever-present influence. As I pointed out to another poster on this thread, your assumption about rules and sex is proven wrong by the fact that many societies existed before the Judeo-Christian woo took root and some long after, in isolation, which had a completely different approach to the problems of children and overpopulation. In many, children were thought to be a communal responsibility, looked after by women of the tribe together and sexual restraint was practised essentially by various means involving natural contraceptives. Also the concept of "marriage", which seems to be the base foundation of modern societies did not exist in the form that is considered unquestionable by most people today. So the current "method" or societal organization and dealing with children is not by any means the only one, even though you would never get this impression from watching the modern societies in action.

            • Not the Europeans (Score:3, Informative)

              by MosesJones (55544)

              But because sex sells, the Western culture is getting increasingly positively schizophrenic about it

              Now us Brits are pretty stuck up on it, but not in the league of our American cousins who set new standards for being uptight and moralistic that make Victorian England look balanced on the subject.

              Meanwhile over the channel in France, Netherlands, Italy and lots of other countries there really isn't the same set of hang-ups. Sex is a normal thing and people who preach about it being immoral are laughed at.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Eli Gottlieb (917758)

              Please stop calling sex-phobia Judeo-Christian. We Jews had nothing to do with it. In our religion we're positively commanded to get it on, with specific regulations on how often you must satisfy your wife based on your occupation. Oh, and we used to have concubines!

              • Re:bad idea... (Score:5, Interesting)

                by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @05:36PM (#29586291)

                Uhm, no. The Old Testament is full of "immorality pisses off God and he nukes the fornicating sinners, their children and their children's children, cousins, second-cousins, cats, dogs etc" type of stuff. As to modernity, why, one has to only take a look at what the Hasidic characters are up to ....

        • Porn causes psych issues?

          If porn affects you negatively where it impacts your work then you were unstable to begin with. Aside from it affecting how turned on you get from real people (I would agree that it can desensitize you but that's about it) I don't believe it affects anyone in any other way. Even if it did, any way it could affect you shouldn't impact your work unless you're a porn star or work for one of those net nanny companies....

          And regardless of all that, as long as someone isn't forcing
        • by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:59AM (#29582315) Homepage Journal

          (Porn causes phych issues).

          Citation & spellchecker needed.

        • Re:bad idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mweather (1089505) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:08PM (#29582437)
          Psych issues cause problems with porn, not the other way around.
        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          "Whereas I am not for pornography in the workplace (Porn causes phych issues)."

          Err....exactly what are these 'psych' issues porn causes??

          Have you found some research that I've not heard of? Can you post links to it?

      • Re:bad idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:44AM (#29582145) Journal
        I find it difficult to summon moral outrage, assuming it doesn't affect job performance; but from an IT perspective there is something of a difference.

        With the proliferation of poorly vetted 3rd party ads and social network plugin "apps" and things, no class of websites is fully safe; but porn sites have a well deserved reputation for being particularly hostile and malware infested. Ideally, IT should be enough on the ball that that isn't an issue; but (especially given the number of hairy zero-day exploits and such floating around) it isn't a risk you really want to bring on yourself, if you don't have to.
        • by etenil (1645213) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:12PM (#29582485) Homepage
          I agree with you. Each company should have its official pr0n sites list, all malware-proof and everything!
        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          That's why if you really don't want to get caught you bring in a DVD that you burned at home. Change the embedded title of the disc to "Frequency" or something so that any history setting shows that as what you've been watching.

          Not that I've done this (I've actually had nightmares about getting caught watching porn at work, even though I never have), but it's an easy method that leaves no permanent files in place nor anything on a web history log.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymusing (1450747)
        They're putting the NSF back into NSFW!
  • by JerryLove (1158461) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:30AM (#29581887)

    Did he spend 331 days, or did he check at some point every day he was at work?

    Once we get past "surfed porn at work", the number of hours seems more relvent than the number of days.

    • by SQLGuru (980662)

      National Science Foundation (NSF)

      It was "research" all in the name of Science!

    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:20PM (#29582635)

      Once we get past "surfed porn at work", the number of hours seems more relvent than the number of days.

      You know very well that the guy was doing what reporters do best: quoting whatever statistic would sound more shocking. 20 hours doesn't sound nearly as bad to an audience as 331 days.

  • by bugeaterr (836984) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:31AM (#29581895)

    It all started out as innocent research on "Black Holes" and "Uranus"...

  • $58k? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ballyhoo (158910) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:31AM (#29581901)

    Sounds like they need a better quality cacheing system, or get some of the pr0n served on a locally hosted CDN. Or stick it on their LAN fileservers. Let's get practical here!

    • by jimicus (737525)

      Sounds like they need a better quality cacheing system, or get some of the pr0n served on a locally hosted CDN. Or stick it on their LAN fileservers. Let's get practical here!

      More likely that the $58k is based on his annual salary worked into an hourly figure then multiplied by the number of hours he spent downloading pr0n.

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        Normal people don't "spend time" downloading. It's an event that happens in the background. It takes a few hours for an HD movie to download when I get it off iTunes but I'm certainly not sitting there watching the status bar tick by.

        I think a better measure would be measuring the hours he was actually looking at porn, though that number is going to be hard for them to actually pin down.

        The other question though, is would he have been diligently working during that time instead? I know that many, myself

  • FOSS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JSG (82708) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:31AM (#29581909) Homepage

    Why aren't they running a product like Websense?"

    ... or Squid + Dans Guardian (for example)? It's somewhat cheaper ...

    • I'd take a guess saying that a "Senior executive" would have a bypass for this kind of protection anyway...
    • by sonnejw0 (1114901)
      Probably because many of those block legitimate medically relevant websites used by the national science foundation.

      The trouble is, a scientist myself, is that so much time is wasted waiting for bureaucracies that meet once a month to approve work that could be done in one day that there's lots of down time. No, they shouldn't look at porn, but I spend a lot of my time reading news websites ... like slashdot.
    • by hodet (620484)
      On this note...anyone tried OpenDNS for content filtering? How does it stack up against other products?
  • > The cost to taxpayers: up to $58,000. Why aren't they running a product like Websense?

    Why isn't someone in charge telling the guy he's fired?

    • I thought the same thing. Why pay for software that will be more expensive and more trouble than its worth when you can just fire people who don't obey the rules?
  • Old News? (Score:4, Informative)

    by travisb828 (1002754) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:31AM (#29581925)

    First this is coming from the Washington Times. Its the newspaper equivalent of Fox News.

    Second this was reported back in January 2009.

    http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=NSF+porn+surfing&scoring=a&hl=en&ned=us&um=1&sa=N&sugg=d&as_ldate=2000&as_hdate=2009&lnav=hist9 [google.com]

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:32AM (#29581927) Journal

    "But officer, it's research!"

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:32AM (#29581933)

    To begin with, this is a senior executive, not some lowly password changer in the basement. The policy against surfing porn at work may apply to all equally, but as we all know, some are more equal than others. So it's hard to expect that this person would somehow be subject to the rules considering his position.

    Second, what's wrong with surfing porn at work? Work is a stressful environment, and finding ways to relieve this stress is actually a productive endeavor. Many companies have put in "game rooms" with pool tables and other recreational apparatus to help employees work off some stress and be more productive at their jobs. If porn helped this senior exec relieve stress and be more productive, then it's a good deal for the agency.

    If someone is somehow offended by the viewing of porn, I suggest they give proof that they were forced to view it with the boss. Otherwise, even if they viewed it incidentally, their is no evidence that this exec was using the porn in a harassing way. If the porn itself wasn't illegal, then what's the big deal?

    • Work is a stressful environment, and finding ways to relieve this stress is actually a productive endeavor. Many companies have put in "game rooms" with pool tables and other recreational apparatus to help employees work off some stress and be more productive at their jobs.

      So they already have blackjack, what about adding some hookers? Wait, that wouldn't make them more productive, rather more reproductive...

    • by shentino (1139071)

      NSF is a government agency.

      Presumably the exec could be dinged, or maybe even arrested, for misappropriation of government resources.

  • NSFw (Score:5, Funny)

    by drenehtsral (29789) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:32AM (#29581937) Homepage

    I guess they'd better create an internal division called the National Science Foundation Watchdog, or NSFW for short...

  • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:32AM (#29581941) Journal

    Well, this is reported by the Washington Times, so you know it's not biased in the least. OK, let's take a look.

    The only substantive abuse claim here is a quote from the NSF's inspector general making a budget request to Congress. The Times article implies that "this dramatic increase," forcing fraud detection efforts to be reduced, refers to employees browsing porn.

    But that's not the case, is it. If we read the Times article very carefully, we see that the very first graf references:

    Employee misconduct investigations, often involving workers accessing pornography

    Subsequent references to "the problems," "this dramatic increase," and "the misconduct cases" are all really talking about employee misconduct as a whole, not porn surfing specifically.

    Maybe that's why this article is big on rhetoric and small on actual cases. One lengthy case is detailed on the article's first page. How much did that case cost taxpayers? "Between $13,800 and $58,000." Out of the NSF's $6.49 billion budget [nsf.gov]. That's 0.0006%.

    How often is "often"? Six times as often as before. Misconduct cases -- not porn specifically -- went from 3 in 2006, to 7 in 2007, to 10 in 2008. The Times hints repeatedly that this is a huge problem, but despite its lavish use of adjectives -- "pervasive," "swamped," "well-publicized" -- it has to report that the actual number of porn-related misconduct cases in 2008 was seven.

    Slashdot's headline "Porn Surfing Rampant" is exactly the kind of exaggeration that the Washington Times was hoping secondary media would slap on this story. "Rampant" is just not true, there's no possible way seven cases in a year can be described that way.

    If each case was as bad as the one "between $13,800 and $58,000" case that was identified, those seven cases probably cost 0.004% of the NSF's budget.

    But the Times article gets worse, moving from exaggeration to outright lies. Later, its author Jim McElhatton writes:

    The foundation's inspector general ... told Congress it was diverted from that mission by the porn cases.

    That's a flat-out lie. The OIG told Congress it was diverted by "employee misconduct," not porn. Here, read the actual budget request [docstoc.com]. (Full quote below.)

    There is one paragraph in a 7-page report that references employee misconduct, and nowhere are "porn cases" referenced. Surely some of the cost to the agency was specifically from porn-surfing misconduct. And some was not. How much? We still don't know.

    Look, any major institution, private or public, that employs a large number of people and gives them access to the internet, is going to have a few employees who abuse that access. It's ridiculous to think otherwise. Employees are capable of wasting time in a wide variety of creative ways. I daresay some employees in the private sector are wasting time reading Slashdot right at this very moment when they are nominally getting paid to do other things.

    Republicans aren't fans of science; we know that. Smearing the NSF in the media by associating their name with porn for a news cycle is a fun yuk I suppose, but for conservatives it's another shot fired in the culture war. I find it depressing. There's actual news out there; this is at best People magazine type crap.

    And it's ironic that this gets spread over the internet that the NSF helped create, and the story is brought to you thanks to the Freedom of Information Act that was passed by Democrats [wikipedia.org] over the objections of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Scalia.

    Finally, as someone who 10 years ago was writing stories for Slashdot

    • by Smidge207 (1278042) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:36AM (#29582007) Journal

      Agreed, Jaime, and just to be clear, the people reportedly looking at porn were NSF staffers, not scientists. The NSF administers funding for basic research, but doesn't conduct it directly. The work is usually done at universities.

      The staffers under scrutiny were certainly acting unprofessionally and should be reprimanded or fired. But the NSF is a gem among federal programs: it funds high risk long-term research that no private company would be capable of supporting. Historically basic research pays off enormously, but the return time is very long.

      The occasional news reports on ridiculous research topics usually fail to give context for the work. Even when news reports are accurate, high-risk research has to involve occasional missteps.

      In my opinion, the long-term return on NSF spending is orders of magnitude greater than what we'll get back on military, entitlement, or even NIH spending.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your analysis is well thought out, informative, and factually accurate.

      Are you sure you meant to post it here on slashdot?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)

      It's a scam perpetrated by the Republican created NSFW tag.

      It makes them think the link is for National Science Foundation Work.

    • by joggle (594025) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:49AM (#29582197) Homepage Journal

      I read the first three words and that was enough for me. I'm glad you took the time to specifically point out the flaws in this particular story for those who aren't familiar with the complete lack of journalistic integrity at that paper and may have otherwise taken the article seriously.

      From my point of view, it may as well be "The Onion reports..." with the only difference that it isn't intended to be haha funny but actually trying to fool you instead.

    • Republicans aren't fans of science; we know that. Smearing the NSF in the media by associating their name with porn for a news cycle is a fun yuk I suppose, but for conservatives it's another shot fired in the culture war.

      There's been a rash of reporter-based "auditing" of left-leaning organizations of late. Perhaps the left-leaning news and blogging organizations should "audit" Halliburton, Blackwater, etc. Fight fire with fire. Some will argue, however, that this would "drag the left down to the same low

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:58AM (#29582309) Homepage Journal

      Slashdot's headline "Porn Surfing Rampant" is exactly the kind of exaggeration that the Washington Times was hoping secondary media would slap on this story.

      Aren't you an editor?

    • Wow, you should be an editor here or something!
    • by bughunter (10093)

      Slashdot's headline "Porn Surfing Rampant" is exactly the kind of exaggeration that the Washington Times was hoping secondary media would slap on this story. "Rampant" is just not true, there's no possible way seven cases in a year can be described that way.

      Jamie, you have "@slashdot.org" after your name. You have a staff icon on your message header. Why can't you correct this?

      I can't believe that slashdot is about spreading misinformation over honoring an editor's decision to greenlight a headline.

    • Great post, thanks for taking the time to set the record straight!

      I would just like to make one clarification though:

      Republicans aren't fans of science; we know that.

      I don't think that statement is accurate. I think it is true that generally Republicans/Conservatives frown on federally funded science, because they don't believe that it is a legitimate function of government, but I don't think it is fair to say they don't like science.
      That's sort of like saying all liberals hug trees.
      And for the record, I'm a Libertarian, not Republican.

    • by fermion (181285)
      was also interested in how the figured the costs. Computers are a fixed cost. Bandwidth tends to be fixed cost, or at lest generally has a small incremental cost. As high as the estimate is, one wonders if the government paid for subscription to the p0rn sites. On a certain level, any off task behavior can be considered a violation.

      This to me seems like the typical waste we see in government. Not the act itself, but overreacting to the act and then wasting everyones time. These are adults for goodne

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      There should be a mod to 6+ (each additional mod worth 1/8 value?) when something is this insightful.
  • Preach something, do something different. This is just one area out of hundreds where the government do that, I don't see anything new here.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      The National Science Foundation preaches not viewing porn at work? I don't recall ever hearing that from them.

  • Can we have some context please? What was the Senior Exec Job? I mean, this is the NSF, so theoretically, it could have been research.
  • by joocemann (1273720) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:34AM (#29581973)

    We all know if you count your 'visits' by the day it seems to have big implications. But lets be realistic here. We all know you only visit for between 2-5 minutes.

    Erring on the high side... 5 x 331 = 1655 minutes = 27.6 hours. And if we consider it work days, (about 8 hours), then that's actually hardly over 3 days.

    Exaggerate much? Oh, but we wanted the headlines so so bad; we had to make it look big! (sarcasm)
    ----------

    And right now, somewhere, people are reading this and frowining-- all the while having recently masturbated at work. Yes, everyone's shit still stinks. Yes, we all tug it. I wonder how much human time has been wasted worrying about this petty garble; consider the average time it takes to read and the average number of slashdot headline readers and I bet we're well over 27.6 hours!

  • by TSHTF (953742) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:34AM (#29581975) Homepage
    I wouldn't recommend Websense to anyone. They have a long history of stealth [blogspot.com] web [webmasterworld.com] robots [codingforums.com] which intentionally disobey the robots.txt standard.
  • People are people (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:34AM (#29581979) Homepage Journal

    A) this is no different then what people do in some private companies

    B) That had to dig to find one extreme example

    C) They didn't define porn in this context. Is it just a random hit? I ahve hit porn site accidently while looking up job related sites. Hopefull if the record is reviewed that also not when I left the site. Which would be immediatly.

    D) Yes, this is not good, but there is no real indication of how bad it is. They make it SOUND bad, but there aren't based on any baseline.

    Of course then give an example of a guy and how much he did and then said he wasn't detected. If he wasn't detected then how would they know how much online activity they had?

  • Not too surprised (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jonpublic (676412) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:34AM (#29581981)

    I know one of my friends told her supervisor of porn she found on her "hand me down computer" that came from the new director of a major metropolitan museum. There was no investigation, no action taken, no nothing.

  • Did he spend 331 days at the NSF, and looked at porn for a few minutes a day? Or did he spend 331 * 8 hours looking at porn. The former, I can understand. Looking at porn isn't really that different from checking facebook or reading slashdot. You can't do intelligent work 8 hours straight, you need some breaks to let your subconscious mind sort things out.

    If he spent 331*8 hours, then it's absolutely inexcusable. Don't these people have supervisors who check to see how much work they're getting done?

    • by vlm (69642)

      If he spent 331*8 hours, then it's absolutely inexcusable.

      Agree completely, since 365-331 equals 34 total days off all year, minus then ten or so standard holidays, implies he worked full time absolutely every single day except for holidays and three weeks vacation. Sounds unlikely that someone so burned out could produce anything at all regardless of what he did in the office, much less lose tens of thousands of dollars of productivity due to his little hobby...

  • For fiftyeight grand the taxpayers could bought him services of an enjoyable prostitute for that same year. Or he could have bought his wife something really nice.

    Pardon the slight scent of male chauvinism. Ordinarily, I would refrain from such comments, but the fact is it is true!

  • by heretic108 (454817) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:44AM (#29582141)

    What is it about porn that provokes such an outrage?

    If I was a manager in that organisation, I'd be putting the porn-surfing under the larger categories of "non-work activity" and "non-work-related use of NSF resources" and disciplinging employees on that basis.

    If employees did ridiculous amounts of porn-surfing, I'd be addressing matters of how they feel about their job, and whether they had a psychological issue that drove their porn addiction; at their next review I'd prescribe a course of counselling as an assessable item of job performance.

    If someone is so heavily pulled to porn, something is badly off-track in his/her life. S/he might otherwise be an excellent worker, but needing to be brought into line and pushed in a direction of emotional/psychological healing.

    What I'd like to ask is - why is it a scandal if employees wasted company resources accessing porn, but not if they waste similar resources accessing (say) medieval re-enactment sites and forums?

    • by dbet (1607261)
      Agreed. Where I work, we can take personal time during the day for whatever we want. There's no rule against personal internet usage, even porn or gaming. We can even bring in alcohol if we want. And we're not "losing productivity" anymore than we are by taking a lunch break. If there was no internet many would read a newspaper or take an extra smoke break

      I'm as upset by government waste as anyone, but employees being human and not robots is not the same as waste. They need breaks too.
    • I agree the outrage is disproportionate in porn cases, but there is a reason to treat it to some amount specially: avoiding a sexual harassment lawsuit.
  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:46AM (#29582165)
    "The Washington Times reports, 'The problems at the National Science Foundation (NSF) were so pervasive they swamped the agency's inspector general and forced the internal watchdog to cut back on its primary mission of investigating grant fraud

    and on page 2 it says "foundation's inspector general closed 10 employee misconduct investigations last year, up from just three in 2006. "

    Ten staff were caught, out of a total of 1200. That's "all pervasive"? It's less than 1%. That "swamped" the investigators?

    Investigate how productive these investigators are, that sounds more like the story.

    And what the hell does that phrase "senior executive who spent at least 331 days looking at pornography" mean? He spent 8 hours a day for a almost a year looking at porn? Or does it actually mean he looked at porn at least once on 331 days? Some people take a smoke break, others take a coffee break, maybe he took porn breaks. How much time did he actually waste, and is that the issue or is it "PORN"? He's an adult, everyone in the office is an adult, and if anyone had been disturbed by his habit, I'm sure we would have heard all about it.

    And on page three: The report caught the attention of Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee... Right, this story was sourced from the "ranking Republican" on the committee. So we can be sure he has no agenda to embarrass the government by turning this trivial misconduct of a dozen staff into a "scandal".

  • I'm baffled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ogive17 (691899) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:52AM (#29582229)
    It's completely beyond my comprehension why anyone would think it's ok to surf for porn at work. Clearly common sense is no longer a factor in hiring.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Morpeth (577066)
      I know, it's amazing there's people here trying to say it's ok. Probably the same Generation Me types who think they're entitled to everything, are 'special' and 'unique', and feel that common sense rules don't apply to them. Here's some simple, obvious reasons why it's NOT ok.

      1) You're paid to do a job, not slack off (or jack off in this case). Do your job and quit whining about how stressful it is, blah blah blah.

      2) Porn sites are notorious for spyware, viruses, bots, keyloggers. You are putting the co

    • by selven (1556643)
      Same reason why it's ok to surf Slashdot at work.
  • by No-Cool-Nickname (1287972) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @11:54AM (#29582251)

    of boobs.

  • Why aren't they running a product like Websense?

    A much better question is, why aren't they firing this obviously incompetent person from his job?

    If you do not perform your job duties and surf porn instead of working, you deserve to get fired. And don't get me that "addiction is a disease" crap - if it is an addiction problem, put him in a twelve-step program, write him off as sick for 2 years, and put someone else in charge. Small lapses are tolerable, but in this case it's simply doing something he *really* shouldn't, by society's and the organizations

  • Investigators put the cost to taxpayers of the senior official's porn surfing at between $13,800 and about $58,000.

    Naturally, the bulk of that cost was eaten by the cost of the investigation. If one employee, with salaries and benefits and admin overhead, totaling 100K estimated that he spent between 13.8% and 58% of his time monitoring this guy's internet connection, then this one guys appetite for porn cost the NSF 13800--58000.

    I think the NSF needs honest accountants, but employing one would probably add the porn bill.

  • "Why aren't they running a product like Websense?"

    Why install garbage which will inevitably interfere with someone doing their actual job at some point when the real question is: how could someone do *nothing* for 331 days and not be noticed? There's a million ways to goof off both online and offline, and blocking porn sites is barely the tip of the iceberg.

    If, as others have noted, he was just checking porn sites once a day for 331 days of the year then it's the same as any random 'take a small break' act

  • by Tanktalus (794810) on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:23PM (#29582695) Journal
    Was it really porn that they were viewing? Maybe they should post the URLs (and users/passwords) so we can judge for ourselves.
  • yes indeed! why arent they running Websense(c) high security anti porno software! why, with Websense(c) we know our workers are 900% more productive than without Websense(c) which would be disastrous and result in the suicide of our CEO.

    these super duper logs indicate some users are visiting naked porno anti productive sites up to three ho-jillion times a day and the visits most certainly are not due to mal-ware or viruses but naughty and unproductive anti-work workers.

    yes, this article proves and gu
  • by Lulu of the Lotus-Ea (3441) <mertz@gnosis.cx> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @12:52PM (#29583109) Homepage

    Give us a break: "Spent 331 days looking at porn"! This isn't the fault of the summary, the article itself has the same silliness. I am certain that the executive in question didn't *spend* 331 days looking at porn, but rather that there were 331 days *when* he looked at porn. Not sure the time interval, but even assuming a year, sure he looked at some porn every day. So what?!

    If the guy (or any employee) isn't performing is job duties, worry about that. But that's a matter of specifying duties, not of stupid prurience about pornography. It's no better if he's looking at Facebook, or Slashdot, or a vacation planning site, or (god forbid) Fox News... nor even if he's just spending all day sharpening pencils.

    I actually mostly agree that porn seems banal and boring, and fairly pointless. But unless employees expose other employees to what they're looking at unwillingly, it makes no differences whatsoever *what* someone is wasting time on. And it's not obvious that looking at porn actually means wasting time. In the real world, humans can't concentrate on work for 10 hours a day without interruption, or at least a lot of otherwise excellent employees can't. Taking little breaks to distract oneself "during work time" is just the human condition and part of our mental limits.

  • by Noughmad (1044096) <miha.cancula@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 29, 2009 @01:02PM (#29583283) Homepage
    porn is NSFNSF?

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