Brits Threatened By Workplace Porn

Gretchen Gallen
UNITED KINGDOM – Dutch researcher Lodewijk Asscher pointed a warning finger at British companies this week, claiming that under the terms of a specific clause in European anti-spam legislation, the presence of porn spam on corporate computers could land employers in deep water for creating a hostile work environment.

According to Asscher, the broad wording of the spam legislation opens up a world of trouble for Europe's corporate sector, and he is advising companies with email networks to protect employees from exposure to unsolicited emails. In failing to do so, they could be held liable for personal damages. In some cases, employees can claim that they have suffered from distress because of exposure to explicit content, which can include not only images, but words as well.

Internet law experts have been warning employers for some time that staying above bar on issues related to workplace safety now includes protections from the effects of the Internet.

To avoid lawsuits for mental or emotional distress, firms have to take all reasonable and practical steps to stop explicit spam, security experts warn.

The solution, Asscher says, a researcher for the University of Amsterdam's Institute for Information Law, is the implementation of spam filtering systems. Employers in particular danger of being sued are those with knowledge that their corporate spam includes porn, but who make no effort to block it.

The spam issue in Europe has reached epidemic proportions and according to studies, now accounts for more than 52 percent of all emails sent. As the problem worsens, employers are increasingly being pressured to prevent sexually explicit email from reaching their employees, especially in cases where the emails have originated from other employees.

To date, there have been several high-profile corporate liability issues pertaining to inappropriate email in the workplace. In one particular analysis of email traffic at an investment firm, researchers were able to determine that 95 percent of all inbound image files contained porn, and that on a typical day, more than 9,000 porn images were being emailed to that particular company alone.

In the United States, spam costs businesses an estimated $12.9 billion through loss of employee productivity and the cost of spam filters and network maintenance, says Chicago-based Unspam, a spam consulting company for businesses and governments.