Bill Introduced To Keep Bored Federal Employees From Viewing Porn While On The Clock

from the and-what's-wrong-with-simply-enforcing-existing-policies? dept

Because federal employees just can't seem to stop watching porn while on the clock, a legislator is stepping in to do something about it.

Rep. Mark Meadows on Wednesday introduced the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act, which he said would prevent government employees from taking their eyes off their work.
"Prevent" is a strong word, considering both the limitations of the nascent bill and federal employees' willingness to go above and beyond when it comes to porn-watching in the workplace. Meadows' statement on the bill points out one particular EPA employee who admitted to viewing porn up to 6 hours a day (indeed, he was watching porn when the Inspector General came knocking) and had accessed or downloaded more than 7,000 pornographic images.

It's not just the EPA. The SEC and FCC also employ their fair share of (apparently) professional porn enthusiasts. But what Meadows is demanding in his bill [pdf] is little more than a reiteration of existing policies.
Except as provided in subsection 9 (b), not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall issue guidelines that prohibit the access of a pornographic or other explicit web site from a Federal computer.
Subsection 9 (b) basically states "unless watching porn is your job" -- i.e., investigative work, etc. Given the amount of porn-watching occurring at federal agencies, it would seem that some new "Porn-Watcher Watcher" positions will be opening if Meadows' bill manages to snag a Presidential signature.

But the bill -- as proposed -- will have little to no effect on ardent federal porn fans. New guidelines, or even a new firewall (if that's the direction the OMB goes), won't stop those intent on whiling away their work hours in a permanent state of arousal. Firewalls can be circumvented and, unless the guidelines contain significant punishments for violating them, new policies will be equally useless.

It can safely be said that no current government policies allow for the accessing of porn with government computers, so we know the policy route is wholly ineffective. The addition of bolded print or ALL CAPS from the OMB isn't suddenly going to take the lead out of these government pencils. The longevity of the EPA's porn fan (both in terms of per-day consumption and continued employment) should be all the evidence needed to prove Meadows' bill useless -- something Meadows doesn't seem to have considered when writing his press release (or the bill itself).

I'm in full agreement that it shouldn't take a new law to prevent federal employees from abusing themselves and their equipment while on the clock. But it won't be fixed by a more-disappointed-than-angry press release and bill demanding new policies within 90 days of enactment. The government actually needs to take control of this situation by booting its bored and frisky employees out of their all-too-comfortable positions and hire people willing to treat federal employment with the same respect millions of private employees are expected to treat their jobs. Enforce the policies already on the books. The nation really doesn't need more laws.

Filed Under: employees, government, mark meadows, porn


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  • identicon
    RR, 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:26am

    Management

    The first or second time you can blame the employee. After that you have to blame management.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:30am

    Aren't the penalties already stiff?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JohnG (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:55am

    There's no incentive to clean this up (pun intended) because in gov't there's ultimately no cost for being wasteful; it's not like the EPA or any gov't agency will have his/her budget reduced because of this or any wasteful spending.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sw (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      I think you have this backwards. The EPA is having its budget slashed left and right. The number of employees has dropped significantly; half of the cubicles where I work, which were once filled with employees, are now empty. From what I've heard from friends, there are equal numbers of people in the private sector goofing off too; this is not just a "government waste" issue but an issue widespread throughout the white collar world.

      So no, given that the last decade has been all about reducing the EPA's budget, reducing it some more is not going to fix the problem and bolster morale; quite the opposite as good people suddenly don't have the resources to do their jobs.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 5:06am

    Wait, so you're saying you think...

    that at PRIVATE companies, employees don't do the exact same thing?

    "people willing to treat federal employment with the same respect millions of private employees are expected to treat their jobs."

    Do you really think corporate employees don't do the exact same thing, in the exact same magnitude? That - while some of them get fired immediately - just as many get protected and wind up spending years doing the same thing?

    As someone who spent years in corporate IT, please let me disabuse you of that notion.

    Sometimes this site REALLY veers into tinfoil-hat-libertarian zones. This is a perfectly newsworthy article WITHOUT introducing the personal opinion that "federal employees are bad, corporate employees are good." It's the thirteenth toll of the clock.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 5:23am

      Re: Wait, so you're saying you think...

      um, one HUGE difference, sparky:
      WE ALL ARE PAYING THESE 'civil servants' to surf porn on OUR TIME, OUR DIME...
      a private company wants to look the other way, or even allow it, well, that is -literally- THEIR bidness...

      there is a different standard at work between public service and private service, and their should be...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        amoshias (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 6:48am

        Re: Re: Wait, so you're saying you think...

        You missed my point entirely. Read my post again. Yes, obviously, the fact that we're paying them is significant. Or did you think that when I said "this is a newsworthy item" I meant that any article about any company anywhere whose employees were acting like human beings act would be newsworthy? (hint: I wasn't.)

        But it's significant WITHOUT the ridiculous assertion that private employees DON'T do the exact same kind of thing. So why not leave that assertion out, and make the article that much more worthwhile?

        Also - oh my god, I'm on a computer that doesn't have NoScript... the ads on this site advertise gold bullion? Libertarian tinfoil hat indeed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 5:34am

      Re: Tim Cushing, closet racist?

      "This is a perfectly newsworthy article WITHOUT introducing the personal opinion that "federal employees are bad, corporate employees are good." It's the thirteenth toll of the clock."

      Tim Cushing apparent dislike of Washington's bloated federal bureaucracy could also be attacked from a racism perspective, since Negroes constitute a disproportionately high percentage of federal employees.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 6:02am

        Re: Re: Tim Cushing, closet racist?

        As a Military member, I sometimes forget that I'm also a Federal Employee. I work in IT, I regularly see the handslaps and paperwork issued out when someone finds something they *shouldn't be able to access that happens to not already be captured in the list of places you can't reach from our networks. The idea that my pseudo-peers (civilian federal employees) have none of the apparent oversight and monitoring that are facts of my daily life confuses and enrages me.

        There have been times that even Techdirt or the National news sites (I'm talking CNN and FOX even) have randomly come up as blacklisted.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Tim Cushing, closet racist?

          As a civilian federal employee, we have the oversight and people are punished for looking at porn. It does come down to who your management is and also who is running IT.

          At my base they are pretty good about putting a stop to looking at porn and going to sites that are not allowed if it is being done on a government computer. Granted someone always finds a way around because the Internet is so dynamic but eventually when the person is caught they are severely dealt with at my base.

          As far as the blacklisted sites, I hate it too.

          The times when people get away with crap like in this article it is because management is not doing their job and/or there is red tape in the way stopping the discipline

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:19pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Tim Cushing, closet racist?

            The times when people get away with crap like in this article it is because management is not doing their job and/or there is red tape in the way stopping the discipline

            Bingo, we have a winner.

            We had a guy running a porn server for months on his workstation. We had other folks browsing porn for hours a day. It wasn't until management actually started to care that it was taken care of. The guy running a porn server was fired, but the others were just told not to do it any more, which was largely ignored. Until management takes it seriously, nothing will ever happen.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            btr1701 (profile), 14 Feb 2015 @ 9:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Tim Cushing, closet racist?

            > Granted someone always finds a way around because
            > the Internet is so dynamic but eventually when the person
            > is caught they are severely dealt with at my base.

            For gawd's sake, the easiest way around it is to just take out your frakking personal iPhone or iPad and watch all the porn you can stomach on it with absolutely zero oversight or chance of being caught-- from an IT perspective, that is. You could always be physically caught if someone walks in on you while you're watching it.

            My agency's computers are so locked down that approximately 50% of the links on the Drudge Report are blocked on any given day, and those are all mainstream news sites. For some reason, we've blocked the entire country of Australia. If the URL ends in .au, it's blocked. So what do I do? I use my iPhone for most of my daily internetting, especially when I get a hankering for some kinky kangaroo porn.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 6:04am

    I find it funny with everything else that's wrong in our government someone wastes more time introducing this type of low level legislation. The world's falling apart but hey at least we stopped those damn porn watchers.. I'd glad allow these guys to surf porn. But the guys who introduce these laws do more damage with the scribble of a pen than any porn surfer could do working on 25 and out

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 6:58am

      Re:

      The point is not to solve any real problems(becuase doing so would require actual work), but rather to look like you're actually doing something. After this you can bet that Rep. Meadows and his supporters will be crowing about how 'tough on porn' he is, and how determined he is to address the problem of government employees accessing it during work hours.

      Solving real problems takes work, and it requires that you sometimes be on the unpopular side of public opinion, but 'solving' issues like this, where the problem isn't that there's no laws or rules in place to stop such activity, but that the current rules in place aren't being enforced? That takes no effort at all, while providing a nice bit of PR they can use for their re-election campaign.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 6:26am

    I think the solution is to make it a felony. That seems to be the cure of the moment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 6:36am

    Are they getting their job done?

    If the employee is getting their work done I don't really care what they do in their spare time. Allowing an employee a little bit of freedom makes their job a little more enjoyable which often results in increased productivity.

    If an employee has 6 hours to spare each day, then their work day needs reduced by 6 hours or they need to be given 6 hours more worth of work each day.

    This is not an employee problem, its a management problem.
    If management was reprimanding poor performance the employees watching porn all day would be fired in short order.

    Fire the managers who are failing to supervise their employees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sw (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 7:33am

    So basically they want Federal employees to do what us contractors do: use our phones to access porn (and everything else) while at work. In an age of smartphones, it's futile to attempt to control productivity this way. It's addressing the surface issue rather than the deeper issue of motivation.

    That said, it would be nice for Federal employees to have the same level of scrutiny as us contractors. I was encouraged by my supervisor not to even check my non-work email while at work because the IT department can monitor what we do on our computers at any time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:05am

    In the corporate world. You get walked for this. No bills needed.

    Your paid to work, not entertain yourself. On top of the obvious HR issues this causes.

    Even having images of the opposite sex in swimwear as background get's people written up or fired.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:50am

      Re:

      Indeed yes. Although in my workplace we are specifically allowed to use the internet for personal purposes within certain parameters, porn is not specifically mentioned as one of those parameters. Probably because porn is treated more generally in the "don't create a hostile work environment" section, so there's no reason to talk about internet porn in particular.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DNY (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 8:15am

    They also serve who only stand and wait.

    The line from Milton's sonnet describes not only the attitude of piety to which his poem applied it, but a great many jobs in which one needs to be present in case work arises, but often for long stretches have nothing to do. (A similar observation is made by the old military saying "Hurry up and wait.")

    Now, one might hope that Federal employees waiting for work to arise would occupy themselves with something more edifying than pornography (perhaps reading sonnets), but so long as porn is legal, it seems a bit out of line to deny those idle because of the intermittent nature of the work they are engaged to perform access to their favored pastime as a way of whiling away the hours.

    Of course, it is also possible that there are entirely too many Federal employees for the amount of work that must be done. But that should be solved by restructuring the Federal bureaucracy to decrease the number of Federal employees. Of course, maybe there is some virtue in that case to making work conditions for Federal employees less pleasant -- it might increase the number of voluntary separations from Federal employment -- but this would only be useful in the context of restructuring the bureaucracy to decrease the number of positions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:20pm

      Re: They also serve who only stand and wait.

      By making the work less pleasant all you do is drive out the good employees that can find better work outside the government. The bad employees will put up with it for the most part because they know they couldn't get a better job somewhere else.

      In the end all this would do is degrade your work force more and you will still have bad management and employees.

      However in the USAF a new pay system is being implemented (too slowly for my taste) that will allow pay based on performance instead of time in office. The good engineers will see higher pay and the bad engineers will see lower pay. With multiple levels of management that must approve pay changes hopefully abuse of the system will be kept to a minimum.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:43pm

        Re: Re: They also serve who only stand and wait.

        However in the USAF a new pay system is being implemented (too slowly for my taste) that will allow pay based on performance instead of time in office. The good engineers will see higher pay and the bad engineers will see lower pay. With multiple levels of management that must approve pay changes hopefully abuse of the system will be kept to a minimum.

        In theory, this works well. But then the government gets involved and as they do with everything else, they screw it up (for the sake of being "fair" to everyone.)

        What you end up with is a points system where every group, branch, etc., gets a certain number of points to share among employees, regardless to the size of the group, and thus smaller groups get much more points than larger groups, and generally everyone gets the same number of points in the organization unless someone really screws up and/or pisses someone off, regardless to how well or poorly they perform. And those who tend to do real well, performance wise, tend to not be the suck-ups or political folks who can snow a boss over, which means they tend to actually receive worse grades and/or points than those who spend more time in the political arena then doing their job.

        You end up not rewarding the folks who get the job done, but the ones that know how to excel in politics (in otherwords, the sociopaths win.)

        The best way is to give your employees reasonable expectations of goals and objectives, and let them do their job. If they don't, fire them. If they do, reward them. Simple, but in government, nearly impossible.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    NoNames, 13 Feb 2015 @ 9:11am

    Porn @ Work

    The place that pays my bills has a very high pressure sales team. They have numbers next to them they have to meet or they don't get paid, and possibly fired. There are several people who consistently post very high numbers, and get a staggering amount of commission, into the millions of dollars.
    At least one such individual does this while indulging in a porn habit that has broken 3 computers in the last 18 months. (due to Malware)
    I cannot speak for everywhere, but as long as he is in the top ten percent of our sales force, I doubt he will ever face any repercussions from his habit. AFAIK, as a disincentive, when he is in the top 10%, his manager also gets a bonus from the company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 9:38am

      Re: Porn @ Work

      "At least one such individual does this while indulging in a porn habit that has broken 3 computers in the last 18 months. (due to Malware)"

      So that guy is a total idiot, then.

      With my employees, the only thing that I cared about was that they didn't break the law at work and that they did excellent work on time. As long as they were doing that, I couldn't care less about anything else they did.

      If I were that salesman's boss, I'd give the guy a private office so nobody else would be bothered by his porn, and would purchase him a membership to a malware-free porn site, and give him a separate "porn-only" computer so that any malware won't disrupt his working machine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ltlw0lf (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:32pm

        Re: Re: Porn @ Work

        With my employees, the only thing that I cared about was that they didn't break the law at work and that they did excellent work on time. As long as they were doing that, I couldn't care less about anything else they did.

        That is not the normal way government works. Sadly, in my experience, it isn't whether you're excellent work is on time, but whether you sit in your desk during your scheduled "duty" day and look busy. I've seen people read the newspaper all day, but so long as they looked like they were doing work, they were good.

        Government tends to wear down "hackers" (the smart people that keep things working,) because they tend to do as much as they possibly can as quickly as they can, and then goof-off for a while until they need to get busy again. Its why government tends to shun things like telecommuting, because they can't be sure that folks look like their working instead of giving employees their tasks, priorities, and due-dates and let them get busy in their own way.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          BernardoVerda (profile), 14 Feb 2015 @ 5:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: Porn @ Work

          "That is not the normal way government works. Sadly, in my experience, it isn't whether you're excellent work is on time, but whether you sit in your desk during your scheduled "duty" day and look busy. I've seen people read the newspaper all day, but so long as they looked like they were doing work, they were good. "

          Plenty of that in the private sector, too, actually.
          It's not even just a "white collar" problem.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:07pm

      Re: Porn @ Work

      I would think the company would at least make sure he isn't getting the company computers filled with malware as that could cause a major problem financially (stuff gets stolen or leaked). At least have him use a computer set aside for that which doesn't contain any work data and/or his personal machine.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 13 Feb 2015 @ 10:46am

    At my place of employment, we used to get porn investigations about once a week.

    We installed a web based proxy, it dropped to 1x a year.

    Now if they want porn, they need to bring in their own device and use it off a network we don't control.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:10pm

    Replaced with surveilance porn

    I wish i was joking.........im under no illusions in thinking that one day, if not already, that certain "positions" in certain government "facilities" will be used on individuals that those people in those positions take a "fancy" too..........and then a law at some point "legalising" voyeurs charter after "educating" the public suffiecently

    Its not that anyone is incapable of doing wrong, EVERYONE has it within themselves to do something wrong.....you are who you are by the choices you make..........if you choose to do right, then that generally makes you a good person, but any good person can choose to do wrong at any point and vice versa........i question the intellect that says we can create these things that could cause a grand scale of problems and think it impossible to be misused..........dont build them, then theres nothing to be missused

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:20pm

    stop masterbating act

    The cleaners are starting to complain

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2015 @ 12:23pm

    Kleenix lobby group must be furious

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    connermac725 (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 1:00pm

    NEW POLICY

    they should just do what South Carolina does and make it a felony to look at porn at work
    South Carolina Says It's A Felony For Prisoners To Look At Facebook; Sends Many To Solitary Confinement

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 13 Feb 2015 @ 4:28pm

    Do you really need to pass a bill on specific internet crap viewed on the clock? Or could we just, you know expect employees anywhere to stop fucking around and get to work? And expect managers to manage their departments properly?

    A bill? Seriously? And if it doesn't pass, what does that mean? All right everyone, choke 'em if ye got 'em?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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