"Substandard" contractors enforce Government Facebook ban

Contracted internet service providers have been responsible for a crackdown on social media access in government.

It was revealed by Department for Work and Pensions minister Chris Grayling last week that there was a block on the use of various social sites within its department.  But TechEye  has discovered that the ban does not extend throughout Whitehall, and it is the actions of contractors which decide what is blocked.

Employment Minister Grayling said in a written statement last week that DWP has “restricted or blocked” access to sites including Facebook. Though certain areas of the department were still able to access the full gamut of social sites, such as in communications roles, mostly it is restricted to LinkedIn and Twitter.

While this lead to reports of a government clampdown on social media, not all departments have a similar approach.

The Department for Education, for example, has access to all social media networks, TechEye sources explain.  A firewall is in place where certain key words are flagged as inappropriate, for example many betting sites.

However, in the Home Office access to Facebook has been blocked as in the DWP, but this is down to the role of contracted internet service providers.  This is the “wider reason” for any ban, our sources say.

Whereas some departments have in-house ISPs, the Home Office has a contract with Fujitsu to provide internet services. We are told that it is contractors like Fujitsu which clamp down severely, as it is part of their contract to do so.   Although they are more cost effective, the belief, we hear, is that they offer a “substandard” alternative.

TechEye attempted to contact DWP to find out whether this had any role in the ban, but has not received a response.

There is one site which has received a blanket ban across Whitehall – whistleblowing WikiLeaks.