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Embarrassing: UK Parliament views porn amid porn-filter plan

Users of Britain's Parliamentary Network servers, including MPs and other officials, accessed pornographic websites more than 300,000 times between May 2012 and July 2013.

Uk parliament openingEnlarge
Peers look on during the State Opening of Parliament, at the Houses of Parliament in London on May 8, 2013. (Toby Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

A Freedom of Information request by Huffington Post has revealed Britain's House of Parliament made more than 300,000 attempts to access internet porn between May 2012 and July 2013, though that number comes with a few caveats.

The internet is a tricky place, and it's difficult to prove the pornographic websites were purposefully accessed. In addition, the number of attempts could be inflated by pop-up content and pages that automatically reload.

In seven months “Out of Town Affairs,” an adult-dating website that specializes in extra marital affairs, received 52,000 hits, according to the Independent, a UK news outlet.

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About 5,000 people - MPs, staff, and other officials - work in the parliamentary estate, and it appears to be near impossible to determine under what circumstances the pornographic websites were viewed. It's also not clear what is, and is not, pornographic by the standards of parliamentary filter systems.

Finally, no one, including a House of Commons spokeswoman interviewed by Huffington Post, could explain the massive disparity in attempts to access porn between months. For example, there were 15 recorded instances in February, and 15,707 in July. What could account for that? Summer vacation?

“We do not consider the data to provide an accurate representation of the number of purposeful requests made by network users due to the variety of ways in which websites can be designed to act, react and interact and due to the potential operation of third party software," the House of Commons said in a statement

Still, with all that said, it is embarrassing news for the government, especially after Prime Minister David Cameron went public with his plan to introduce porn filters to the UK's largest internet service providers.

The idea is that at the end of 2014, people who want to view pornographic videos or pictures will have to opt in, meaning they will be forced to ask for adult content. The plan, in part a crackdown on child porn and extreme content, is not without its critics. 

Most recently, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia co-founder and technology adviser to Cameron, said the program was "ridiculous," and that it would be costly and ineffective.

"When Cameron uses the example of pedophiles who are addicted to internet porn – all that these plans would do is require them to opt in," he said. "It's an absolutely ridiculous idea that won't work."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130904/300000-attempts-view-porn-parliament-porn