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It seems as if we hear every week about another organization that has failed to manage both its communications and its people. The latest incident, concerning former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley’s inappropriate communications with congressional pages, illustrates failure of governance at many levels.

One question that immediately comes to mind: How can an organization that passed numerous measures to bring accountability to communications disregard its own advice?

Click here for recommendations for creating and enforcing e-mail policies.

The revelations about Foley and the House leadership’s failure to heed warnings about Foley’s behavior should cause all organizations to think hard about how they handle complaints about inappropriate e-mail and instant messaging traffic. It’s been reported that Foley’s inappropriate e-mail exchanges were conducted using his personal AOL account, which makes the communications more difficult to track. However, reports also suggest that sexually explicit IM conversations originated at times from Foley’s office system.

Numerous products exist to monitor and control communications on a network, and any of these tools with simple language policy filters would have caught Foley’s inappropriate remarks.

However, technology can’t work in a vacuum: An organization’s management must be there to ask questions and follow through when problems emerge. It appears that Foley was told, in so many words, to “knock it off.” But telling someone to stop and then hoping the problem will go away is not enough, as we’ve clearly seen.

We should take this example of our government “at work” to serve as a not-so-gentle reminder to think about the worst that can happen—and what policies and procedures are in place to prevent it.

Check, check

eWEEK Labs’ reviews of just some of the products that keep corporate e-mail and IM in check

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at

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