There has been much debate over the use of web filters for libraries. On one side are those that believe that as places of learning, there should be no restrictions placed on the types of information that can be accessed through libraries. Libraries house books that are sexually explicit, racist, or contain material some may find distasteful or offensive, but banning those books would be inappropriate.
That same thinking has been applied to the Internet, access to which is often provided in libraries. The application of a web filter to block certain types of content is viewed as unacceptable by some people, even if as a result of a lack of technical controls library computers are used to access hardcore pornography. The American Library Association does not advocate the use of web filters for libraries, instead suggesting acceptable usage policies and educational programs are more appropriate.
The other camp considers the use of web filters in libraries to be a necessity to ensure libraries can be used by children and adults without others subjecting them to obscene and potentially harmful web content. Acceptable usage policies only discourage users from accessing pornography. Policies do not prevent such activities.
New Hampshire Library Considers Using Web Filtering Technology to Block Porn
The use of public library computers for viewing offensive sexual content is common. There have been many cases of library patrons discovering other users accessing adult content on computers in full sight of other users, as was recently the case at the Lebanon Public Library in New Hampshire.
A complaint was made to Lebanon Public Library about two children (of middle school age) who are alleged to have used the library computers to access pornography. Jim Vanier, youth center coordinator for the Carter Community Building Association, overheard the children discussing pornography at the computers, although they denied accessing adult content.
Vanier’s complaint prompted the Library Board of Trustees to form a task force to investigate current internet usage policies and the task force will consider whether a web filter is appropriate for the library.
While web filters for libraries are available to prevent obscene videos and images from being accessed, relatively few libraries have started implementing even the most basic content controls. The Children’s Internet Protection Act requires the use of web filters in libraries and schools, but only as a condition to obtain e-rate discounts and federal grants. In order to qualify for funds, obscene images, child pornography, and other information deemed harmful to minors must be blocked.
The municipal libraries in Lebanon have taken steps to curb Internet misuse and have introduced policies that prohibit computers from being used for any disruptive or inappropriate behavior, including the viewing of images of a pornographic nature. However, policies alone are insufficient to prevent all cases of inappropriate Internet use.
The reason why many libraries choose not to apply filters is often because web filters for libraries are not perfect, and as a result, they could filter out unintended content.
Accuracy of Content Blocking by Web Filters for Libraries
While there have been issues with web filters for libraries overblocking content in the past, there have been major advances in web filtering technology over the past 10 years. Web filters can now more accurately assess and categorize content.
WebTitan Cloud, for instance, has highly granular controls and allows libraries to carefully control the content that can be accessed without overblocking.
While there is potential for user error when setting policies, WebTitan Cloud solves this issue by having an easy to use user interface that requires no technical skill to use. This helps to eliminate user error that often leads to overblocking of web content.
With WebTitan Cloud, libraries can easily filter out pornography, child pornography, and other obscene and harmful content to comply with CIPA and meet parents’ expectations without restricting access to valuable, educational websites.
WebTitan Cloud also blocks access to websites that host malware to prevent malicious software from being downloaded onto library computers, as well as blocking a wide range of Internet threats such as phishing.
WebTitan Cloud – An Accurate and Easy to Use Web Filter for Libraries
WebTitan Cloud is an ideal web filter for libraries. It is 100% cloud-based so not costly hardware purchases are required. It is easy to implement, simple to use, and allows Internet content to be carefully controlled without blocking access to valuable educational material.
Some of the key features in TitanHQ’s web filters for libraries have been detailed below:
WebTitan Cloud Features
- Highly granular controls to allow precise filtering of Internet content
- Unmatched combination of coverage, accuracy, and flexibility
- Real-time classification of more than 500 million websites and 6 billion web pages in 200 languages
- 100% coverage of the Alexa 1 million most visited websites
- Easy to use interface requiring no technical skill
- 100% cloud-based filtering – No hardware purchases or software downloads required
- Supports Safe Search and YouTube for Schools
- Supports whitelists and blacklists for creating exceptions to allow/block content outside general policy controls
- Category-based filtering allows blocking through 53 pre-defined website categories and 10 customizable categories
- HTTP/HTTPS filtering
- Customizable block pages
- Supports time-controlled cloud keys to allow certain users to bypass filtering controls – for research purposes for instance
- Provides full visibility into network usage
- Full reporting suite including real-time Internet activity
For further information on TitanHQ’s web filter for libraries, to arrange a product demonstration, and to register for a free trial to evaluate WebTitan Cloud in your own environment, contact the TitanHQ team today.