In Idaho, library content filtering is now mandatory. H.B.194, which was signed into law in April, requires llibraries in Idaho to implement a content filtering system by July 2020 that is capable of preventing minors from accessing objectionable content. Not only does that content filtering system need to prevent library computers from being used to access undesirable content, the content filter must also cover library WiFi networks.
The law change was introduced in to prevent children from accessing pornography on library computers, which various studies have shown can cause considerable harm. Without filters in place, children could access adult content or inadvertently see adult content on other users’ screens. There have been many reports in the media and on internet forums of library patrons catching glimpses of pornography being accessed in plain sight of others.
Some library directors and library boards are unhappy with the law change for two main reasons. The first concerns a potential violation of First Amendments rights. The American Civil Liberties Union has voiced its concerns, stating “Ultimately, blocking software prevents users from accessing a wide range of valuable information, including such topics as art, literature, women’s health, politics, religion and free speech, which is in direct violation of our First Amendment rights.”
The view that filtering means other content will also be blocked is outdated. While the overblocking of internet content was once a concern, modern internet content filters for libraries are much more advanced and allow highly granular control of internet content. Modern filters are also much better at categorizing content than they once were. Further, easy-to-use interfaces reduce the potential for user error setting the content controls.
The filters also prevent malware downloads and block access to phishing forms, which further enhances protection for users and protects library networks from malware and ransomware attacks.
The other main issue is one of cost. While libraries can obtain discounts under the e-rate program if they implement content filters to comply with the the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), Idaho libraries otherwise have to cover the cost of the filtering controls themselves. No additional money has been made available.
Implementing Library Content Filtering for WiFi Networks is Easy
Little guidance has been provided on how libraries should implement the filters and there is confusion over how the filters can be applied to wired and WiFi networks.
Traditional filters require an appliance to be purchased which is costly. The appliance sits between the user and the internet and all traffic passes through that device and content controls are applied. This is problematic, especially when library devices are supplied for use off-site as all traffic must be hauled back to the appliance and then back to the device, which can result in significant latency (slow internet speeds).
A more cost-effective and trouble-free solution is a DNS-based filter. DNS-based filters apply filtering controls at the DNS level. No appliance needs to be purchased – which means a significant cost saving – and there is no latency. All the filtering takes place on the service provider’s server, not locally on an appliance device.
This system also allows filtering to take place on WiFi networks. Any device that connects to the WiFi network will only be able to access the filtered Internet service. Blocks can also be placed on anonymizer services to prevent filtering controls from being bypassed and DNS filtering can also be used to protect mobile devices, even those used off site.
TitanHQ’s content filtering solution for libraries – WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi – not only incorporate highly granular controls to prevent overblocking of internet content, the solution requires no technical skill to operate, no hardware purchases are required, and no software downloads are necessary. WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi are also low-cost content filtering solutions for libraries. Typical licensing costs are less than $1 per user per month.
If you are struggling to find a content filtering solution for your library, give the TitanHQ team a call. You will be able to have your questions answered about how to implement the solution, you can schedule a product demonstration to see how easy the solution is to operate, and can also take advantage of a free trial to see for yourself how precise the filtering controls are.