WH Smith ‘disgusted’ as site places porn next to children’s books

The book retailer took its website off-line yesterday. Picture: Getty

The book retailer took its website off-line yesterday. Picture: Getty

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WH SMITH said it is “disgusted” to learn that pornographic ebooks were available to buy alongside children’s titles on its website.

The book retailer took its website off-line yesterday after it was reported that typing “daddy” into the search box brought up fictional accounts of bondage and sexual humiliation alongside children’s stories.

The company said this was a “new industry issue due to the explosion of self-publishing”, adding that it was not its policy to feature the titles highlighted and said it had processes in place to screen them out.

But an MP said that it was “unacceptable” that anyone could access this material via the company’s website.

More than 60 of these ebooks were available there on Saturday, according to a report in a Sunday newspaper.

They are said to include graphic descriptions of incest and sex attacks.

In a statement, the company said: “Last week we were made aware that a number of unacceptable titles were appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours.

“This is a new industry issue due to the explosion of self-publishing, which in the main is good as it gives new authors the opportunity to get published.

“However we are disgusted by these titles, find it totally unacceptable and we in no way whatsoever condone them.”

The statement continued: “We offer over one million titles through our eBooks partner Kobo, many of which are self-published titles.

“Due to the massive amount of self-publishing a number of these titles have got through the screening process.”

The company said it was “taking immediate steps” to have the books removed, and had decided to take the website off-line “to best protect our customers and the public”.

The statement said: “Our website will become live again once all self-published ebooks have been removed and we are totally sure that there are no offending titles available.

“When our website goes back online it will not display any self-published material until we are confident that inappropriate books can never be shown again.

“We sincerely apologise for any offence caused.”

John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee told a newspaper: “It is disgusting that WHSmith, one of the country’s most respected retailers, is selling hardcore pornography alongside children’s books.

“Retailers have a responsibility to families and it is unacceptable that anyone could access this with a click of a mouse.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier this year that internet firms faced legal controls unless they did more to block child abuse images found using their search engines.

He added that “family-friendly filters” would be automatically selected for all new internet customers by the end of the year – although they could choose to switch them off.

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