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The New York Times embarked on a mass firing this week after staff were discovered sending "offensive" and smutty emails.

All 23 sacked employees worked at the newspaper's administrative departments, based in Virginia and had their actions uncovered when the company intercepted internal emails.

Russell Lewis, president and CEO at the New York Times, sent an email to all staff telling them of the firings.

"While the company does not routinely monitor the email communications of employees, we do investigate when a violation of the company's email policy is reported," the memo said.

The nature of the material sent was not disclosed, but "all transmitted clearly inappropriate and offensive material, which left no doubt as to the discipline required," the memo continued.

Many other employees at the New York Times received disciplinary warning letters over the matter.

The UK press today reported that the emails were sex-related and included dirty notes and sexy photographs.

This is not the first time the New York Times has fired staff for email violations, but the company said it was the biggest mass lay-off so far for such as offence.

According to the company's email policy, computers cannot be used to "create, forward or display any offensive or disruptive messages, including photographs, graphics and audio materials". (r)

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