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Sep 2, 2010

Nile’s porn excuse doesn’t hold water

We shouldn't be surprised that Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile was fingered as the Legislative Council’s biggest accessor of porn. US research has shown that social conservatives are the heaviest consumers of online pornography.

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NSW Ports Minister Paul McLeay shouldn’t be surprised he was caught accessing – such a delightfully non-judgemental word – pornography via his parliamentary computer. Nor should we be surprised that Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile was fingered as the Legislative Council’s biggest accessor of porn.

Organisations routinely log web access to detect misuse of their networks. Systems administrators routinely conduct audits to investigate suspicions of fraud, breach of confidentiality, excessive use of work computers for private use or just to find out who’s hogging the bandwidth. I’ve done them myself, and “adult material” turns up nearly every time.

The NSW government’s Protocol for Acceptable Use of the Internet and Electronic Mail bans the use of government computers for “intentionally transmitting, communicating or accessing pornographic or sexually explicit material, images, text or other offensive material”. While these rules may not apply to MPs — the Department of Parliamentary Services didn’t reply by Crikey’s deadline — a politician would have to be very stupid indeed not to understand the inevitable fallout from being caught.

Nile claims the 200,000 suspect hits recorded under his login were his staff researching the Australian Sex Party and the proposed internet filter. Staffer David Copeland reportedly confirms this. But this raises further questions.

That figure of 200,000 could well be a “hit” for every element on a web page, and web pages typically have dozens of elements such as graphics, style sheets and hidden scripts. Even so, that still represents thousands of pages.

Just how much “research” do you need to do, how many pages do you need to look at, to determine that there’s — gosh! — porn on the internets?

Why couldn’t Nile just get the Parliamentary Library to hand him one of the excellent reports on pornography that already exist, such as The Porn Report by Alan McKee, Kath Albury and Catharine Lumby?

Most importantly of all, why was Copeland using Nile’s login rather than his own? That in itself is a breach of security protocols. In many commercial organisations it’s a sackable offence.

But as I said, this is all unsurprising…

US research has shown that social conservatives are the heaviest consumers of online pornography. Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School obtained anonymous credit-card receipts from a major online adult entertainment provider and factored in differences in broadband access between states.

“Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage,” reported New Scientist. “States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement ‘I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage,’ bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed.”

The word is “repressed”, I think.

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