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A more generalized version of How can I deal with inappropriate content appearing on my Twitter feed at work?, this time without an easy way to keep

Sometimes, at my office (in the EU, but this applies to any region, really), I'm just sitting at my computer, either on a break or researching something, when a potentially NSFW (or at least risqué) segment appears. To give a couple of examples:

  1. I tend to watch stuff on Youtube or Twitch while on a break (either my lunch break or a small or big pomodoro break) to completely clear my mind. My coworkers do not have a problem with me watching stuff on my break, and they do it as well on their own breaks. One of the things I sometimes watch is a compilation of people doing something and failing at it. Sometimes the person failing is a woman in a bikini. It's the kind of thing you might see at a swimming pool: no nudity, but still something that raises eyebrows if someone were to watch my screen. Note that there is not really a way for me to predict when and in what videos from what channels something risqué appears (as the next example shows). However, I'd rather not stop watching Youtube on my break because 10 or 20 seconds of the 2 hours I take a break per day might show some skin.
  2. Yesterday, I was watching a video from Troy Hunt on the NDC Conferences channel, and one of the slides showed a screenshot he took on a porn site. Again, there's not shown anything more than you'd see at a swimming pool, but it might raise eyebrows. the tricky part is that the video is something relevant to my job, and my coworkers have already said that it's perfectly fine to watch videos as a form of training or education during working hours, and it's even supported by our time reporting and encouraged by my coworkers.
  3. a more hypothetical situation: A website I come across while researching something has self-hosted ads (so my adblocker doesn't stop them) for one of those online games where the ad itself shows a lady in an armored bikini, sometimes even focusing on a rather large pair of breasts.
  4. while link surfing on the Stack Exchange network during my break, an answer shows a satirical cartoon of Wonder Woman reflecting bullets using her breasts.

The layout of my office means that my coworkers don't really passively see my monitor. I also don't sit near a window or the door, so passers-by or people entering the room need to really stand next to me to notice it.

I'm not sure if I'm not blowing this out of proportion: a small amount of time on some days, not even all days, where my computer monitor might show some skin. On the other hand, I don't want to risk my job because content outside of my control gets me into trouble.

If something like one of the above situations were to happen, what would be the best way to deal with it?

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    This happens to me with Reddit. While I typically only browse through my list of subs, I will go to All when I'm bored. It's a dangerous game to play. – Kaizerwolf Jul 28 '17 at 14:14
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    If someone who disliked you at work or just thought taking you down would lift them up saw it what would the consequenses be? Are you willing to accept those consequenses? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 28 '17 at 14:23
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    I don't get how this question is getting VTC's. Its not opinion based at all if you get caught with the wrong content on your monitor.... – Mister Positive Jul 28 '17 at 14:24
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    @MisterPositive The image was in an answer to a question about Wonder Woman's invincibility on either Movies or SFF. It has since been deleted, but the answer was not meant as a serious answer. The image itself can be found at imgur.com/QsnHcdt (warning, jiggle physics). – Nzall Jul 28 '17 at 14:53
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    1. Don't look at non work related stuff at work. 2. If you really must look at non work related stuff, stick to the most innocuous sites like the news 3. View personal stuff on your own device. Much harder to accidentally see someone's phone screen 4. Use Chrome's incognito mode, or other similar browser feature, so that it will never remember your viewing history, and thus hopefully will present you with ads designed for a more general audience. – Kai Jul 28 '17 at 20:04
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You're based in Belgium according to your profile, and are getting many replies that primarily apply to North America.

What passes as NSFW or grounds for immediate dismissal in the US are mostly not comparable with those in Europe. Puritanism and political correctness aren't as rampant, and protective labor laws exist.

As long as you're not actively doing stuff that's obviously offensive or wrong, you'll be fine. I can't fathom an EU company getting away with firing an employee because a piece of nipple appeared on a screen while reading a software security blog.

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    True. In Belgium, you could just check the work regulations and maybe speak casually with your direct superior about it if you really want clarity. – Simon Hoare Jul 28 '17 at 15:59
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    "Puritanism and political correctness aren't as rampant, and protective labor laws exist." Excellent +1 – Digitalsa1nt Aug 21 '17 at 14:02
  • NSFW in the US is a product of "protective labor laws" (sexual harassment laws). Therefore, you might want to clarify what you mean. – Jonathan Cast Aug 22 '17 at 19:06
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I think the term NSFW - Not Safe For Work - is one that should be taken at face value here.

This is really one of those situations where if you have to ask / wonder whether it's okay, it's probably safest to assume it's not.

The best thing you can do is find a way to ensure that someone else isn't going to be coming to your desk while this material is up. If you like taking breaks, I'd recommend leaving the office and going somewhere else where you can view this material (May or may not be feasible depending on your location).

For example, you could cruise down to the local coffee shop, and watch whatever you want while you're on their wifi, in comfort from the very physical distance you've now placed between yourself and the workplace while you relax.

Again, depends on your environment and what's available to you, but I would recommend avoiding anything that could be questioned being on your screen.

Think of it this way: What if you had a manager or someone else that was micro-managing their employees to the level that they used software to occasionally monitor what's on their employee's screens? You don't necessarily have to have someone right behind you for them to see.

It really is better to play it safe in this scenario.

It's very possible that even getting this kind of content seen is going to be a benign experience, but imagine the scenario where you have to go through a long line of questioning over it, and go through some exhaustive process where the company's trying to cover their own hide and investigate why on earth a bikini shot ended up on an employee's computer.

On a fairly separate note: This is the kind of activity on a computer that most workplaces would deem as 'personal use', and many companies have policies (Enforced or not) that discourage this kind of use, because they'd rather not have to deal with the outcomes (such as from things like this) that can occur from employees doing non-work-related things on their workstations in the office. This is another good reason to take this kind of activity outside the office, where it won't be questioned in any serious manner.

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    Good advice "if you have to ask / wonder whether it's okay, it's probably safest to assume it's not." – Mister Positive Jul 28 '17 at 15:23
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Should I be worried about things like this?

Yes, you should be concerned about this. Any not safe for work content can be grounds for termination at any company I have worked at in the last 20 years.

Consider if an employee happens to drop by for a visit while the bikini photos are up. It doesn't have to be porn to be offensive, and its not worth the uncomfortable discussion with your boss and or HR.

It only takes one incident to either tarnish your reputation, or worse cost you your job. With that in mind if you don't think the content or site is safe for work, don't view the content.

If your not sure how to determine what is safe, then ask yourself this:

"If any of my co-workers ( or say you're manager ) saw this content on my monitor would he or she be offended?"

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    grammar comment aside, I think the OP should consider the consequences if his boss sees his monitor. I should have made my earlier comment more clear. – Dan Pichelman Jul 28 '17 at 15:04
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    I see your point. I didn't consider "any" to include rank. My mistake. – Dan Pichelman Jul 28 '17 at 15:09
  • @DenisdeBernardy It may take longer to be terminated, but you certainly don't want the reputation that goes along with being caught viewing NSFW content. Where that line is varies by company and country, but the line is there none the less. – Mister Positive Jul 28 '17 at 15:34
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    Yes, Belgium has a different attitude to these things. For any location, the main thing would be to know the applicable national or local government legislation and the company's work regulations, etc. In terms of co-workers and how it might affect your reputation with them, you will need to use your best judgment. If your boss has given instructions, follow them. – Simon Hoare Jul 28 '17 at 15:53
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    I'd like to respectfully disagree with a particular premise that is key to your answer. In the last 20 years you have not worked at every company in the world, nor is it likely you have worked at OP's company. This fact makes your experience less relevant than you imply. I'd say whether or not this could be grounds for dismissal would very much be a product of the company culture, which in Europe tends to be far more relaxed to this kind of thing than the US – Darren H Jul 28 '17 at 17:12
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You should try to avoid encountering this, but that doesn't mean you have to lock yourself down.

What I mean by that is, avoid situations where you would expect to regularly see non-explicit sexualized content, and avoid situations where there's even a possibility to see explicit content. There's a lot to be said for context of the website, and whether you could have predicted what would come up. To go through each of your examples:

A Youtube fail-video that happens to have a woman in a bikini

If you are already allowed to watch random fail-videos during break, then I don't see any problem with this. It's one segment of a larger video, and it's not something that's being overly sexual. Granted, I wouldn't be watching Youtube videos on my work computer at all, but it sounds like your office is a little more lax about that. What would be inappropriate is watching videos that are exclusively about women in bikinis.

A conference presentation that featured a non-explicit screenshot from a porn website.

I think this content is inappropriate to just leave on your screen, but I wouldn't blame you if you accidentally ran into it. You are watching what should be a professional talk, and the presenter behaved unprofessionally. You couldn't have expected that to come up. If you encounter that, just try to speed through to the next slide and explain to anyone what happened if they ask. What would be inappropriate would be if the topic or this particular presenter is known to include this sort of content in their presentations.

A website with self-hosted ads that are may be inappropriate

If the ads for this website are normally okay, and there happens to be one off-color one from time to time, okay, no big deal. If I know this website to often have inappropriate ads, I would avoid spending time on it. If I know this website to rarely have explicit pornographic ads, I would absolutely never visit the site on a work computer. The best option may be to get a suitable ad blocker.

Stack Exchange happens to have a sexualized image in one of the posts

I'm pretty sure I know which image you are referring to, and I wouldn't see a problem with that as long as you aren't leaving it on the screen and staring at it. It's one humorous image on a largely professional website. This isn't the type of content you would expect to see often.

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    If you are already allowed to watch random fail-videos during break, then I don't see any problem with this - That you do not have a problem with it does not mean that no one else will have a problem with it. It could be people are tolorating it on break but are actually upset by it and choose to take action when they see something on the screen... this could be very bad. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 28 '17 at 14:43

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