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Shining A Light on Filters. © 1998 Karen G. Schneider, MSLIS. What We Will Cover. What Filters Are & How They Work The Internet Filter Assessment Project The Role of Policy Other Access Management Options. Filters are tools that block Internet content. They can: . Proscribe content

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shining a light on filters

Shining A Light on Filters

© 1998 Karen G. Schneider, MSLIS

what we will cover
What We Will Cover
  • What Filters Are & How They Work
  • The Internet Filter Assessment Project
  • The Role of Policy
  • Other Access Management Options
filters are tools that block internet content they can
Filters are tools that block Internet content. They can:
  • Proscribe content
  • Allocate resources
  • Focus staff/students onto specific topics
why filters
Why Filters?
  • Fear of “bad stuff” on the Internet
  • Need to control resources
  • Belief that filters work
  • Lack of confidence in other solutions
filter blocking technologies
Filter Blocking Technologies
  • Keyword blocking: blocking word patterns (breast, butt, death)
  • Site blocking: blocking pre-identified URLs
  • Web Rating Systems
keyword vs site blocking
Keyword vs. Site Blocking
  • Keyword blocking uses software to identify sites
    • Cheap but inaccurate
  • Site blocking uses humans to select and categorize URLS
    • Costlier but less inaccurate
keyword blocking obliterating in context
Keyword Blocking: Obliterating In Context
  • Typical of Cybersitter, Net Nanny
    • “____on, _____on, who’s got the ____on”
    • “Because I could not stop for ______”
    • “The owl and the ____-cat went to sea”
keyword and site blocking preventing site transmission
Keyword and Site Blocking: Preventing Site Transmission
  • Entire files or directories are blocked
  • Typical of most filters
site lists prevent local control
Site Lists Prevent Local Control
  • Hidden, proprietary information--you don’t know what’s being blocked
  • A shoebox fit for community values--one list for everyone
  • Site lists outsource library work to nonprofessional third parties
other technologies blocking by
Other technologies: blocking by…
  • Category
  • Specific user or Workstation ID
  • Time of day
  • Protocol (nntp, ftp, irc…)
examples of filter categories
Job Search

Cult/New Age











Examples of Filter Categories
types of filter software
Types of Filter Software
  • Client Software
    • Cyber Patrol, Surfwatch, Net Shepherd
  • Server-based software--usually a proxy-server
    • Cyber Patrol, Websense, Smart Filter, I-Gear, X-Stop
  • A client is a single computer or workstation
  • Client software is “standalone” (one copy per computer)
  • Servers are computers that provide services to a network
many server based filters work with proxy servers
Many server-based filters work with proxy servers
  • Proxy servers redirect Internet queries from your browser through the proxy server



filter pricing examples
Filter Pricing Examples
  • Client Software: $12-40/copy per year
  • Server software pricing examples:
    • $2,000/50-user license
    • $4,000 startup plus $1/computer monthly license
    • $2685 for 50 simultaneous users
filter sequence of events
Filter Sequence of Events
  • You tell your browser to go to a website
  • The filter reviews the request….

Is this site or word allowed or

denied by the filter?

other things on the filter s mind
Other things on the filter’s mind:

Is access allowed for this user...time of day...type of resource?


Let me check and see

filter sequence of events continued
Filter Sequence of Events, Continued
  • If the site, word or other value is NOT denied, you go there.
  • Otherwise, you see the denial page.
web ratings how they work
Web Ratings: how they work

<META http-equiv="PICS-Label" content='(PICS-1.1

"" l gen true comment

"RSACi North America Server" by "" for

"" on “2000.08.30T12:22-0500"

r (n 0 s 0 v 0 l 1))'>

so the rating for tifap is
Nudity = 0

Violence = 0

Sex = 0

Language = 1

So the Rating for TIFAP Is:

r (n 0 s 0 v 0 l 1)

rating system logic
Rating System Logic
  • If your browser is set to use RSACi,
  • And your threshold in the language category is 0,
  • You will NOT see the TIFAP website
how about library channel
How about Library Channel?
  • “Selection” tool pointing to 18,000 URLs
  • Includes blocking mechanisms
  • Three indexed fields
    • Title, URL, keywords
library channel
Library Channel...
  • Didn’t fare well with TIFAP testers
  • Browsing environment felt strange
  • Retrieval dependent on subject drill-down
  • Terms such as penis, herpes, trich were not good access points
the internet filter assessment project
Librarians tested filters used real questions from patrons

Filters were tested in different configurations

Most vendors cooperated by sharing full-strength versions of their filters

The Internet Filter Assessment Project
tifap findings
TIFAP Findings
  • Fully-configured filters interfered with question-answering 35% of the time
  • Keyword blocking was a major source of interference
  • No filter ever performed flawlessly in either “direction” (over-blocking or leakage)
advice from tifap
Advice from TIFAP
  • Test Filters
  • Configure Filters
  • Filters need feedback and QA tools
filters are not magic cookies
Filters are not Magic Cookies
  • Filters let through sexually-explicit material
  • Filters block protected speech
  • Filters require funding and maintenance
filters provide poor feedback
Filters Provide Poor Feedback
  • This is not the level of information libraries provide patrons when material is unavailable.
what else can t filters do
What Else Can’t Filters Do?
  • Filters can’t prevent adults from preying on children
  • “Presumption of prurience”: filters can’t identify intent
  • Filters can’t teach appropriate behavior
minimum criteria for a filter
Minimum criteria for a filter
  • Compatible with existing software and hardware
  • Able to communicate with your system software
  • Viewable content
  • Content controllable at the local level
  • Access controlled by patron status and/or patron choice
policy is the first tool
Policy is the First Tool
  • policies for behavior
  • how to manage people in public places
library patrons behaving badly
Library Patrons Behaving Badly:
  • Sex in the bathrooms
  • A man belly-crawling through stacks to lick patrons’ feet
  • Irate husband chasing wife with gun
  • Shootings
  • Mutilating or stealing books & equipment
  • Putting Polaroids of penises in books
  • Peepers, flashers, starers, followers, etc.
policy is a local solution
Policy is a Local Solution
  • policies are set by local Boards
  • Boards create policy based upon…
policy reflects school community
Policy Reflects School/Community
  • What works best right here, right now?
  • What keeps most people happy???
policies for adults
Policies for Adults
  • These people are not so much adults as they are employees.
        • Right to Privacy?
        • Search and Sezure?
  • Library policies generally tell adults what they can’t DISPLAY--not what they can’t READ
        • library vs. public library vs.

classroom with books

policies for children reflect local standards for control
Policies for Children Reflect Local Standards for Control
  • require parental consent for child use of computers with Web access??
  • sometimes used

with filtering

beyond policy other tools for internet access management
Strong PR

Parental consent forms

Privacy screens & desks

Computer positioning


User education

Good media & government relations

School Board cooperation

Security/ resource tools

Beyond Policy: Other Tools for Internet Access Management
filter option 1 filter nothing and do nothing else
Filter Option #1: Filter Nothing(And Do Nothing Else)
  • Does not address loud public debate on Internet content
  • Lost opportunities for proactive leadership
filter option 2 proactively choose not to filter
Filter Option #2:Proactively Choose Not to Filter
  • Friendliest toward commitment to open access
  • Most difficult to administer
filter option 3 filter everything
Filter Option #3:Filter Everything
  • Potential for legal action
  • Negative impact on information services
  • Bad blood in the community
filter option 4 filter selectively
Filter Option #4:Filter Selectively
  • Filter children’s workstations
  • Filter some (all) adult workstations
  • Password or leveled access for staff
user education
User Education
  • It’s Popular
  • PR campaign
  • Aggressively proactive-- you set the tone
privacy screens
Privacy Screens
  • Some find them annoying(even MS teachers)
  • Can interfere with group work
  • Good for supporting privacy
computer positioning
Computer Positioning
  • “I’ll be right here (watching) if you have any questions”
privacy enhancing furniture
Privacy-enhancing Furniture
  • See
  • Aesthetically appealing, ergonomically healthy
  • Expensive and not suited for every setting
resource allocation tools
Resource Allocation Tools
  • Fortres: File-level security
  • WinU, WinKiosk:
    • Interface control
    • Time-outs
  • Cybrarian:
    • Security, control
    • Time control
proactive guidance
Proactive guidance
  • Teaches people what’s good about the Internet
  • Many good sites for kids
  • Very traditional school work
go lists make great guides
“Go Lists” make great guides

Some are from libraries, some from commercial services such as Disney

get everyone singing from the same sheet
Get everyone singingfrom the same sheet
  • Staff
  • School Board
  • Media
  • Government