Business & Finance
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7/8/2005
06:25 PM
Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
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Editor's Note: Taking Steps To Prevent Child Porn

A few years ago, the headlines were filled with stories about corporate financial scandals and executives who were cooking their books. These days, it's identity theft and the lack of protection that some companies apply to their customer data. Customers, shareholders, and regulators have demanded that things change, and that has prompted a wave of business-process change designed to ensure scrupulous business practices and protection of customer data.

Suppose your customers or shareholders were to come to you tomorrow and ask you this: What are you doing to ensure that your employees don't take part (at least using the company's computer equipment) in a dreadful, disgusting, illegal activity--child pornography? It's a topic that's difficult to think about, let alone write about. But sadly, the number of cases are increasing. Ask someone to characterize the type of person who enjoys such filth, and they'll conjure up images like: that weird, antisocial creep sitting in an office in an isolated part of the building. Well, how about the executive in the corner office, the citizen who is active in his community, the chairman of the philharmonic with a wife and two kids?

It seems unlikely, but that may be the case for the former chairman and CEO of Bowne & Co., Robert Johnson, who was arrested on June 28 for accessing and purchasing child porn from an overseas Web site and for deleting some 12,000 files once he learned federal investigators were on the trail. Johnson's lawyers deny the charges, and Bowne officials are distancing themselves from the case, saying it's a personal matter between Johnson and authorities. But I don't buy that. When a company's top executive (or any employee, for that matter) is charged with downloading child porn in the workplace, it's a company issue. A company's customers deserve to know what processes are in place to check for such activity and prevent it from happening. We all want to trust our employees, our managers, our executives. But when the safety of children is at stake, bold action must be taken.

For anyone who plans to write to me telling me that Mr. Johnson has an illness and deserves medical help, not jail time, save your ink. Yes, if he's guilty of the accusations, he most certainly is ill. But people like him and those who create that awful stuff are a threat to society and deserve to be punished.

Stephanie Stahl
Editor-in-chief
sstahl@cmp.com


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