Content filtering is known by various terminologies such as content control, content censorship or blocking, among others. Content filtering refers to restrictions placed to prohibit or control access to material available from Internet sources such as search engines, e-mails and social networking sites. It thus follows that software created to carry out said filtering is known as content control software or a content blocking software.
Increasingly, in the 21st century, technology has enabled the dissemination of vast volumes of information to and from various corners of the globe. This phenomenon has greatly changed lives both positively and negatively. The Internet has given the world a level of connectivity that was previously impossible. The Internet is also fairly unregulated and this factor causes concern for parents, institutions and governments. Content control has become a necessary part of Internet usage though there are those who feel that it amounts to infringement on various fundamental rights of the individual.
Content control can be applied on various levels such as for the purpose of parental control on what children should be able to access on the Internet. Governments also use various content control software to restrict access to material. Institutions also utilize content control mechanisms to keep certain information privilege.
Some of the well known content control software such as Net Nanny function by restricting access based on the web address entered or URL. This poses various challenges since there are currently so many sites on the Internet and the software cannot possibly update its restricted site lists to keep up with the rate at which sites are created. Restricted sites can also change addresses and escape filtering. The DansGuardian, a content control software, addresses these problems and has emerged as a leading product in this area.
DansGuardian was written by, among others, SmoothWall Ltd and developed by Aecio F. Neto. The software has been in use for roughly four years and has made its mark since it utilizes both the URLs and the material contained in each single page accessed in order to allow or restrict access. DansGuardian allows the user to customize it such that it satisfies as much as possible the separate requirements of individual users. This despite the presence of default settings contained, which are created with the average content control requirements of some institutions for instance schools and public libraries. It can therefore be strict or complacent depending on the specifications of each user.
In configuring DansGuardian, a prospective user is allowed the option of assigning a pre valued score to various words that he/she may find offensive or inappropriate. Once a user accesses any site containing any words that have been selected and assigned scores contained in a weighting scheme, the DansGuardian immediately identifies the words, computes cumulative score and should the total of the page exceed the pre-set threshold score then the page is blocked. This is a more effective way of content filtering since it is customizable and targeted at the page and not at the web address which is can be changed in order to skirt content control software.
As earlier mentioned, the DansGuardian also filters using URLs or web addresses. Users have the option of creating what are termed as blacklists. These are further customised to allow flexibility. One may choose to block entire websites from being accessed on their systems and the coinciding URLs are thus listed as sites to be blocked for instance, “www.sexypics.com”. Additionally, the software allows one to restrict access to certain parts of a website should the website be useful or harmless in other sectors. An example is “www.people-todaynews.co.uk/celebrity gossip”. This would be quite useful for an employer who wishes to control the manner in which company time and resources are utilized.
A user may download along with DansGuardian, pre existing or shared blacklists but contained in the list are sites that the user may not want blocked. DansGuardian provides a feature that allows such sites to be accessed. This feature allows the user to exempt the sites from filtration by creating a category under the URL blocking method, known as exception. This way the user has greater wiggle room to navigate the Internet. The above are among the many features of this software that make it a better fit.
To use the software, download and install the content filter by following the prompts and directions provided, which is a simple process that takes a few minutes. It will also allow future alterations should the need arise. It is also prudent to mention that DansGuardian runs on among others, Linux, OpenBSD, NetBSD and HP-UX. DansGuardian does not run on Windows. However, as it is largely used on servers it can filter users of Windows in a shared network.