Saturday, 6 February 2010

Should you be looking at that?

The internet is a vast Aladdin's cave, full of information, wonderment and film clips of young women doing unspeakable things with kitchen appliances. With IT departments and firewalls monitoring our every mouse click, browsing the web at work has become a little like Russian roulette - you take your life in your hands with each new page you open.

It doesn't help matters if you happen to be doing your surfing when camera crews are in the office, as David Kiely found last week. He was hard at work (possibly in both senses) at the Maquarie Bank in Sydney when the Channel 7 News team turned up to interview one of his colleagues. Unfortunately for David, his internetular activities could clearly be seen over the shoulder of the man being interviewed, and David wasn't looking at investment portfolios.

Instead, the cheeky banker was ogling pictures of Victoria's Secret supermodel Miranda Kerr in various states of undress. Partway through the interview David must have experienced that strange feeling of being watched, not realising that there was actually a whole TV audience at home peering over his shoulder.

He finally turned around and glanced guiltily at the camera, acknowledging the epic nature of his fail. According to reports, he was then escorted out of the office by security staff - hopefully they at least allowed him a 'cooling off' period before making him stand up.

Hours later he was the newest YouTube sensation, scoring 1.3 million hits and, rather helpfully, doubling the number of Google searches for Miranda herself. When it appeared as though David might actually lose his job over the debacle, Kerr spoke out to say "I am told there is a petition to save his job, and of course I would sign it."

Here in the UK, other web users have also found themselves viewing the wrong sort of material, through no fault of their own. The Department for Children, Schools and Families recently launched a children's website to introduce young people to government policies and services.

'Buster's World' features a friendly cartoon dog wearing a Sheriff's badge, who guides visitors around the site. Unfortunately for DCSF, the domain name 'Buster's World' already existed, but the site it represents features decidedly different content. The host of that site is quite happy showing off his 'sheriff's badge' too, but his is most definitely NSFW.

'Buster' (as he's known to his friends) is a hairy, middle-aged 'balloon enthusiast' - but not in the way that children might get excited by brightly coloured inflatables. To put it mildly, Buster's World is a strange place to visit: "I like to blow balloons up until they are full and tight and hard and about to burst. At the point a balloon gets so big that it is overinflated and pear shaped, my heart begins to race, and I find the fear of the balloon exploding an exhillerating rush. Being a bit of an exhibitionist, I find it a turn on to show just how big I can blow a balloon myself..."

Still, it's all good, clean, consensual stuff, and there are some very pretty colours on display. But I imagine parents who accidentally clicked on the wrong link might have been dismayed to find a beefy gay man lying spread-eagled across a giant spacehopper.

Unsurprisingly, DCSF were quick to take down the link and issued a prompt apology, "The naming of this webpage was clearly a mistake and we regret that the supplier’s usual thorough checking procedures when creating web content seem to have failed. When this was brought to our attention we urgently took the site down, pending a rename, to avoid any further issues."

To paraphrase a certain bench-dwelling buffoon, the internet's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get. And you might want to think twice before you put anything in your mouth.

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