ABC7 WATCHDOG

D.C. workers shopped, watched videos on the job

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - The District of Columbia employs 32,000 people and they collectively visited YouTube more than 178,000 times – in a single day.

ABC7’s Watchdog team obtained records detailing internet browsing on city-owned employee computers from a random day, which was Friday, Sept. 13. An analysis of that data shows high volumes of traffic to shopping, sports and gaming websites.

Social networks proved to be wildly popular on that Friday. Workers visited Facebook 515,333 times, Twitter more than 184,000 times and Blackplanet.com 49,000 times.

While many taxpayers wonder why government employees are using work computers for personal web surfing, employees themselves say it's no different than taking a short work break.

"In the past, people would take time out to go on a smoke break, go to the water cooler or something like that," Jonathan Willingham, the chief of staff for D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, said. "I think it's much more likely now that you'll check your Gmail and your Facebook. I think if you can do that while sitting at your computer and multitasking, then I don't see any harm in it.”

Councilwoman Anita Bonds happens to disagree, though, telling ABC7 that she asks her employees not to visit those sites on the public's dime.

Outside Bonds' office, though, the hits racked up on Sept. 13 on sports sites like ESPN.com (110,000+ visits), shopping sites (more than 250,000 to sites like Macy's, Safeway and Autotrader.)

"I'm not going to say I don't do it, but I'm also not getting paid with public money," D.C. resident Will Pierce said.

Washington's city administrator said in a statement that giving people a "reasonable amount of time for browsing" is acceptable, as long as their work is getting done. The official added that blocking everything in the workplace makes it seem like more of a "compound" than a free, professional environment.

He added that if an employee's Internet use is affecting job performance, the issue is promptly addressed.

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