Ford offers amnesty on Internet porn

Workers at the car manufacturer have been given two weeks to remove Internet porn from their computers

Twenty thousand workers at Ford, including 5,500 at Dagenham, have been told to clean up their computers and remove any offensive, including racist, material they have on their machines.

They have been given a two week 'amnesty' to delete the offensive content and can get help from Ford's computer systems managers to remove the content during this period.

After the deadline, on Friday 15 March, any employee found to be in possession of or found sending offensive material will be dismissed. This clampdown by Ford was outlined in an email sent to their 20,000 workers. The email says, "The company reserves the right to conduct random audits of its computer resources." The email warns against "transmitting or possessing 'jokes' of an offensive nature, for example, content of which is sexually explicit, racially offensive or otherwise demeans people on the basis of their religion, disability, sexual orientation."

Ford staff are warned not to return to the banned sites later as they will be monitored by spot checks. Lydia Aydon, public affairs spokesperson at Ford, said this is part of their regular staff communications and comes from discussions with the Transport and General Workers Union. The feedback from employees was that they asked for detailed instructions on how to delete the offensive material. Whether it was bookmarks, email or whatever, employees were concerned that they might have inadvertedly downloaded material and needed help to clean up their computers.

Aydon said Ford "has a zero tolerance on any offensive material that can give offence to anyone. Anyone that acesses it or transmits it or stores it will be subject to disciplinary action."

A spokeswoman for the Trade Union Congress said it is important for regulations to be clearly laid down for employees. "This is a growing phenomenon," she said. Employers can be held legally liable for the content of emails sent across their systems and material downloaded from the Internet. Company directors could face legal action if the material coming from their offices is seen by someone who finds it seriously offensive.

A year ago three Ford UK workers were suspended from the Dagenham plant for unauthorised use of the Internet. There have been many instances of employees being sacked for accessing or distributing porn, ranging from mobile phone network operator Orange to Stockbrokers Merrill Lynch who sacked 15 members of its London staff for sending offensive material from its system.


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