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Ill. agency: Glitch behind porn in training video

The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — At the end of a brief online video promoting an Illinois agency’s training summit, the picture faded to black and, several seconds later, a pornographic clip appeared.

Emails show the Illinois Emergency Management Agency scrambling in late August to disable the video, and its chief of staff ordering an investigation into how the salacious footage was added.

Officially, the agency, whose conference last month included a session on cybersecurity, insists no one “hijacked” the website to tag the lewd material onto the end of director James Joseph’s video invitation promoting the summit in Springfield. Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson blames the foul-up on an unfortunate but random circumstance created by YouTube, the platform storing the IEMA clip, which was ultimately viewed more than 900 times.

YouTube policies prohibit pornography and exclude nudity that is provocative or gratuitous. Stephanie Shih, a spokeswoman for the online video company, said the company depends on viewers to flag questionable videos for review and removal.

According to the emails, disclosed under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, the 2-minute, 17-second video featuring Joseph and assistant director Joe Klinger was completed by the first week of August.

On Aug. 29, chief of staff Jennifer Ricker emailed Joseph, Klinger and others indicating that she had instructed web developer Brad Brooks to disable the invite.

“At the end of the video it goes black and then starts playing porn,” Ricker wrote. “Once the video is down I have instructed Brad to then start investigating how this occurred.”

Less than an hour later, IEMA chief information officer Sreekumar Govindan reported, “It’s back on! We added stricter privacy settings. … There was no hijacking involved.”

There was no need for an investigation because adjusting YouTube viewer settings solved the problem, Thompson said.

Initially, Thompson said under YouTube’s design, the pornographic feature automatically loaded as the random “next choice” following the IEMA video. Later she said that when Brooks responded to Ricker’s order, he found that what followed IEMA’s video was a choice of four other videos, featured in “thumbnail” photos.

Thompson said Brooks didn’t review the offerings for lewd material. Rather, he unchecked a box allowing suggested follow-up videos and set the system to return the IEMA video to its beginning, Thompson said.

YouTube concedes it’s possible objectionable material was posted — users upload 400 hours of new content every minute — but said the company urges viewers to “flag” such visuals so that company monitors can immediately evaluate them and remove them if they violate standards.

Thompson said the agency was alerted to the added footage by a viewer who reported it to a regional IEMA office. That was the only complaint the agency received, she said.

“We’d been told that this person pulled it up and this porn video started playing,” Thompson said. “I assume it was just from the report that came in and not from anything we saw.”


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