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Web Content: Tools, Tips & Tactics


Tools, Tips & Tactics

The University provides a network-level filtering service to block pornographic, obscene and offensive content. This filtering service protects you while you are accessing the Internet through the campus network, i.e., when you are on campus and are connected (via wired or wireless access) to BYU's network. BYU's network-level filtering technology allows us to block entire domains (e.g., playboy.com) and not specific pages or content on websites. If you take a BYU-owned laptop off campus or you use a BYU-owned desktop off campus (e.g., in your home for work purposes), it is NOT protected by BYU's network-level filter because you are accessing the Internet via a third party (e.g., through your phone or cable company or another Internet service provider).

Individuals can implement an additional layer of protection against inappropriate content by installing device-level filters on desktop and laptop computers. The most recent Mac and Windows operating systems have content filtering features built in. Device-level filtering software is designed to prevent access to inappropriate content on an individual computer. While features vary from one application to the next, filtering software generally allows users to set customized filtering levels for various content. Some filtering software also includes the ability for an administrator to limit the amount of time individual users spend online and to restrict the hours of the day that the Internet can be accessed. The more sophisticated filtering applications keep track of all computer activity, allowing the administrator to monitor each user's behavior.

Girl Using MacbookFor individuals, device-level filtering software provides an additional safety net to protect you from accidental exposure to inappropriate content. For groups (e.g., roommates sharing a computer or families), device-level filtering facilitates transparency and accountability.

While BYU does not promote or endorse any particular filtering software, we strongly encourage you to acquire and install device-level filtering software on the computers you use.

There are several good web filtering applications available, even some that are free. The information below is provided to help you decide which one best meets your needs.

What Features Are Important in a Filter?

  • Filtering algorithm – A good Internet filter uses an algorithm that includes keyword, dynamic, and URL filtering, rather than just one or two of those options.
  • Effective Filtering Capability – Quality Internet filters have the capacity to filter out objectionable content without filtering out too much content. Having the ability to put on a filter for each family member is a bonus.
  • Ease of Use – Select a filter that is easy to use and allows individuals of all ages and computer experience to install and effectively use the filter.
  • Cost – The cost of the filter may be a characteristic that you may want to consider. Some filters on the Internet are free, while others often range between $25 and $60.
  • Reporting Features – Many filters offer a variety of reporting features such as notification alerts, summary history reporting, graphing reporting, logging of security violations, etc.
  • Support – Some filter packages offer toll-free service. Others offer email responses. Understand the service level you will receive before installing a filter.

Browser & Website Filtering

 

Firefox and Internet Explore have some filtering capacity built in. You should review the "Help" documentation for your browser to learn more about how this works. Some browsers also allow for "add-on" applications that enhance functionality. For example, there is a Firefox add-on that blocks all flash animations on a web page. This will eliminate many of the "commercials" that appear on web pages, some which include inappropriate content.

Additionally, many websites allow you to control the kind of content visible to you.

External Filters May Not Be Enough

External technical barriers and filters serve an essential purpose. There are many among us who are weak or susceptible to particular temptations and external impediments to sin and vice can be invaluable, particularly in moments of weakness. There are also those who might inadvertently wander off the beaten path if the appropriate guideposts and warning signs are not in place. One of the best analogies for these external protections is a guardrail along the edge of a high mountain road. It is placed there to keep drivers safe. But drivers have to do their part—they have to obey the speed limit, stay in their lane, etc. If they do not, the guardrail might not be sufficient to prevent them from going over the edge. Certainly one who is intent on going over will find a way to do so, guardrail or not.

As important as external barriers might be, you are likely to find it increasingly difficult to implement and maintain effective technical solutions to what is essentially an internal moral challenge. For example, as technology continues to evolve, modestly priced, pervasive access to the Internet from cell phones and other mobile devices will become the norm for faculty and students. The providers of these inexpensive and high performance services may not share your views of what is appropriate and what is not, diminishing or even eliminating your ability to protect yourself with technical barriers. This trend amplifies the need to establish internal filters, the character and resolve to choose the right when no one is looking. Ultimately, only an unwavering internal commitment to doing good will protect individuals “at all times and in all things, and in all places.”

 

Read more about internal versus external filters.