Let’s begin with a poll. If you had a bowl of M&Ms, and were told that ‘roughly’ less than 30% of them were rabbit droppings, would you still take a handful and start eating them confidently?
No. Of course you wouldn’t. Unless you really love M&Ms…or rabbit droppings.
Here’s another one:
If Studysafe indicated to you that ‘roughly’ less than 30% of a website was pornography, would you approve your pupils access to it?
No. Of course you wouldn’t. Who would? Unfortunately, internet filtering is slightly more complicated than a blogger with a bowl of M&Ms would have you believe…
The UK Government is trying its best to implement legislation that protects children online – which has been dubbed the ‘30% rule’. The new laws stipulate that websites do not require age-verification, if “less than a third of content is pornographic material and it is provided free of charge.” Thus, sites that host adult content such as Twitter, Imgur & Reddit, will not require any form of age-verification, as they do not fall within the guidelines.
This may initially seem like the government is proposing an internet filter constructed from a soluble papier-mâché sieve, but regulation of online content is a complex process. Put simply, legislation and law-makers do not have the ability to specify further than this simple baseline for internet filtering: make it increasingly difficult for minors to access or stumble across adult content.
Furthering this, the UK Government has introduced a new policy that will take effect in July, which will require users who want to specifically access adult sites, to buy a mandatory ‘pass’. These passes only apply for sites whereby over a third of their content is pornographic, reducing the availability for youngsters significantly. Downside: expect some rather embarrassing exchanges between your newsagent and members of the local community soon. This is in fact a world-first and a great step forward, as it creates a baseline for content filtering, and ensures that cases of children inadvertently accessing adult sites will decline.
But it’s obviously not perfect, and introduces all sorts of moral and technical quandaries that surround internet filtering. It’s also a very broad and somewhat inconsistent rule, as indicated by the executive director of Open Rights Group - Jim Killock: “They haven’t explained how they define percentage. Are they going to count the number of pixels on the screen? What’s a third? It’s very wide and arbitrary and very difficult to define.” This points to a much wider problem within internet filtering, and exposes the nuances of content control. The balance between protecting children from accessing adult content, whilst correctly identifying sites and content they are rightfully allowed to access, is a constant back and forth constrained by the limits of technology and legislation. But there are systems to aid in finding that balance.
Of course, it’s distressing when seemingly innocent sites, fail to block adult content from reaching the eyes of vulnerable users. That’s what systems like Studysafe are here for, to pick up the slack when legislation fails. However, it can also be equally upsetting and frustrating, when accessible resources are suddenly unavailable due to rules that result in over-blocking content. This is a topic that’s often skirted around by web-filtering companies, replaced in favour of scare tactics that focus on the perils of letting anyone under the age of 21 log onto a computer. But over-blocking content is an issue that can sometimes blindside users, so we thought it best to be upfront and address it.
At Studysafe, creating an internet filter that allows children to access the plethora of wonderful resources that are available online, underpins everything we do. Ensuring they’re protected online, and drastically reduce the risk of accessing inappropriate content, drives forward our software. Of course, it’s simple to filter all of the typical online nasties that spring to mind. However, the tools available to you through Studysafe, allow you to monitor and tailor a unique web-filtration system for your school. After identifying the nuances of internet filtering, we made sure you had the ability to track pupil activity online; ensuring that adult content can still be identified when it crops up, and swiftly nipped in the bud, without sacrificing access to appropriate sites.
Through this use of content inspection, you can ensure the perfect balance between protecting pupils, and free access to educational tools or online resources. Thus, giving your pupils the ability to further enhance their learning capabilities.