How to protect against inappropriate Internet content

Internet is now the greatest source of information that has ever existed. Online content is virtually limitless and there is practically no topic for which exhaustive information doesn't exist on the Web. Millions of pages are now at the fingertips of anyone who wants them, making the Internet an invaluable tool for users across the globe.

Another advantage of the Internet is that it is a forum for free speech, as information can be published without censorship of any kind. This however can have a downside, as there are people who exploit such freedom to publish content supporting terrorism or pedophilia, extreme violence or offensive sexual material, and even pages inducing others to commit suicide. Is it therefore so wise for everyone to have completely free access to all types of content?

Given the relatively short period of time that the Internet has been in existence, there is as yet no sufficiently reliable research to answer this question, although stories do appear about kidnappings and even murders that were plotted on the Internet and such like. There is therefore, reason to suggest that there should be some control over what each user can access. All the more so considering the number of young children worldwide that often connect to the Internet.

The problem of inappropriate web content also affects the workplace. According to research by Cobion, between 30% and 40% of Internet use in the workplace is not work-related and 60% of employees with access to the Internet use the resource for personal reasons. Another telling statistic is that some 70% of visits to pornographic websites are during office hours.

Such figures evidently highlight issues concerning both loss of productivity and unnecessary use of network bandwidth, not to mention the possible legal consequences arising from say, downloading illegal files from P2P networks.

Even though some countries have tried to regulate the content to which users have access, the global nature of the Internet makes this a virtually impossible task. Specific, local tools are needed to offer proper control of unproductive or unsuitable Web content.

Controlling access to inappropriate Internet content

With home computers, the greatest danger naturally lies where young children could have completely uncontrolled access to the Internet. In this case, manual content filtering can be the solution using the features included in the browser itself or, better still, some kind of application offering parental control functions.

In the case of companies, particularly medium to large companies, manual control is virtually impossible. In this case, there are proxy servers that can restrict access for certain users, although they cannot actually filter content. It is therefore advisable, given the large number of users of the network, to have a machine dedicated exclusively to this task.

In addition, bearing in mind that there are web pages designed to foil some existing content filters, it is a good idea to ensure that the tool you are using can filter both textual and graphic content.