Fears of bad-taste humour following September's US terrorist attacks have forced Volvo to ban its employees from sending email jokes about Osama bin Laden.
The Swedish carmaker has told its workers that puns about either the attacks on New York and Washington, or the current bombing of Afghanistan, are unacceptable. According to some reports, some employees have been enthusiastically sending each other digitally altered pictures of bin Laden and American president George W. Bush.
A company spokesman has admitted that some "inappropriate material" had been circulating around its internal communications system. "We do not think that the atrocities in the USA are anything to joke about and, furthermore, we want our employees to show respect for other human beings," Volvo spokesman Ingmar Hesslefors told Swedish newspaper GT.
"It will be up to the various department managers to ascertain that the rule is followed," Hesslefors added -- implying that an employee who decided to ignore the directive could face internal disciplinary action.
The growth in popularity of email has led to several high-profile incidents where companies have taken action against offending workers.
In September 2000 a number of staff were fired from mobile phone operator Orange in mysterious circumstances. Initial reports suggested they had been guilty of distributing pornographic material by email, but a source close to the company later claimed that images of "severed body parts" were involved. Orange would only admit that the material distributed was "offensive".
A more public exhibition of the dangers of email came late last year when a city lawyer made the mistake of sending an email to some friends with details of his close relationship with his girlfriend. Widely distributed, the message was eventually seen by millions of Internet users.
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