No one can claim ignorance of the fact that using company computers to send smutty e-mail or visit naughty Web sites can get you canned faster than telling off the boss. Reasonable people still can have a discussion about whether zero tolerance makes sense and whether unemployment is a fitting punishment for a first offense, but there is no longer any debate over the central issue: You just can't do this kind of thing at work - period - and only a moron would take the risk. Trouble is we have no shortage of morons.\nWhen St. Louis investment house Edward Jones & Co. summarily fired 19 employees for "Internet abuse," this columnist was\u00a0quick to condemn the dismissals as excessive."We're talking about 19 fellow human beings with spouses, children, mortgages, dreams and now, thanks to the petty tyrants who run Edward Jones, shredded careers in the financial services industry." That's what I wrote at the time, and I recall taking a measure of satisfaction from the "petty tyrants" crack, too.But that was five years ago. In the summer of 1999, such firings were so rare as to garner headlines and, in the judgment of at least some observers, so draconian as to warrant ridicule.Today neither is the case. As American workers return from their summer vacations of 2004, no one can claim ignorance of the fact that using company computers to send smutty e-mail or visit naughty Web sites can get you canned faster than telling off the boss. Reasonable people still can have a discussion about whether zero tolerance makes sense and whether unemployment is a fitting punishment for a first offense, but there is no longer any debate over the central issue: You just can't do this kind of thing at work - period - and only a moron would take the risk.Trouble is we have no shortage of morons.Four percent of workers say they regularly flout their workplace Internet abuse policies - not to mention common sense - according to\u00a0a recent survey\u00a0conducted at the behest of Web and e-mail filtering vendor SurfControl. The survey covered 350 companies in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.Now 4% might not sound like a particularly large number of morons, but consider this: It likely understates the problem, because some number of those surveyed must have been unwilling to confess, and the 4% who did were copping to indulging in recklessly illicit behavior every . . . single . . . workday. (About one-third of respondents say they've done so at some point.)And that 4% knot of daily deviants might help explain another of this study's findings: About half of all the workers surveyed reported having "been exposed to sexually explicit material by co-workers who had downloaded it from the Web." One need not be a lawyer or human resources professional to understand the sexual harassment liabilities created when half your employees are getting pornography foisted upon them by co-workers. Just make sure to have someone in accounts payable on call to start writing settlement checks.It's difficult to believe that this is the state of things five full years after employers began cracking down. However, there are signs of progress.According to\u00a0a survey by MessageLabs, the number of e-mail attachments containing material inappropriate for the workplace - smut, cartoons, jokes, greeting cards, etc. - decreased to one in every 4,756 (0.02%) during the six-month period ending in August. That's down from one in every 1,357 (0.07%) for the same period last year."While we cannot say for certain what has caused this drop, one possible explanation is growing enforcement of corporate governance requirements," says MessageLabs CTO Mark Sunner. "We are now seeing a number of organizations using e-mail management solutions to help ensure compliance and reduce risk. The effect of this could be one of the reasons why fewer inappropriate images are being sent via e-mail."Need I mention that MessageLabs sells such e-mail management services? And, of course, your mileage may vary in terms of noticing this decrease, as mine most assuredly does.Nevertheless, it's pretty clear that at least some of the morons among us finally are snapping to their senses. . . . Either that or enough of them have been fired.While on the list, moron isn't close to the worst I've been called here. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.