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Pornography at work

Kate McCain MCCAINKW%DUVM.BITNET at net.bio.net
Fri Jan 28 09:18:24 EST 1994

IMHO this can be placed in a more general framework for discussion and
resolution than the specifics of pornography on the computers -- though in
saying that I don't in the least mean to indicate that I don't view this
problem as real, nasty, and deserving of resolution immediately.  However,
once lab directors, or sysops, or computer resource center managers try
to make specific legislation, then it could snowball into demands for other
kinds of specific legislation (games imported from sumex-aim, for instance,
or taking up massive amounts of storage space or processing time with running
football pools, etc.). If the system (hardware, OS, network, etc.) is intended
to be used for research, then a general directive about personal files,
recreational game playing, etc. -- and alluding to the current problem with
offensive images & such as a particularly egregious example of what will NOT
be permitted -- might work.  Universities have to deal with this all the time
and at several different levels -- monitoring everything from game-playing
on public access computers (the MUD environments are particularly attractive
to D&D-addicted undergraduates) to the use of pirated software to the
broadcasting of unwanted and obnoxious messages (well, you get the idea--
undergrads are remarkably inventive, and argumentative.....)  I am also
concerned about getting bogged down in definitions of "pornography" and
the issues of academic freedom, free speech, etc. (If you want to read
about things that happen in universities, read the "computers and
academic freedom" list.)

One might also investigate the regs at your institution to see what
rights the sysop has to examine and monitor users files.  This varies from
place to place.

Anyway -- if the lab, or the department, can make a blanket statement about
research-related use of these computers (which were likely paid for with
grant funding) and if the nature and extent of private passworded files
can be dealt with, it might solve a wider range of problems. It might also
help in the "boys will be boys" type of argument, if those with authority
are male and not as likely to see the problem as serious as it is. After
all, these are not personal computers owned by the people in the lab, and
anything on them should be accessible by the lab director or research
supervisor (one could even invoke the non-private status of e-mail in
organizations as a precedent, I suppose). Legal responsibilities for
subordinates behavior flows upwards, I suspect, particularly after notice
has been given.

Good luck!

Kate McCain
College of Information Studies
Drexel University

mccainkw at duvm.ocs.drexel.edu

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