Web Filtering Defined
Web filters are a form of censorware – a category of software programs designed to determine the content available on a particular machine or network.
In terms of home / family Internet filtering, the motive is usually to protect children from online material considered to be inappropriate for their viewing. The most commonly filtered websites are related to pornography, sexuality, religion, extremism, violence, gambling and alternative lifestyles. Web content is filtered either by site ( – using lists of URLs cataloged according to the material they contain – ) or by keyword.
In some cases web filters can be used to block Internet access entirely, or configured to filter other requests such as instant messaging or chat rooms. Content may be blocked according to traffic type - for example, web access might be allowed while file transfers are restricted.Internet filters can be implemented in several different ways – by specialist software programs installed on a personal computer, or by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that block objectionable content before it enters the home over software run on their own servers.
History of Home Internet Filtering
As the World Wide Web grew into a mainstream technology, scare stories emanating from the mass media caused parents to worry that Internet use would expose their kids to indecent material. As time went by, such fears were legitimized by countless real-world examples of kids’ safety being compromised by surfing the web.
The US government responded to these concerns by attempting to ban indecency on the Internet. However, the Communications Decency Act was overturned by civil liberties groups who argued that parents who wanted to block websites could use their own content-filtering software, making government involvement unnecessary.
Responsibility for protecting kids online was thereby returned to individual parents, and demand for home filtering software and filtered Internet provision soared, despite early objections to crude filtering criteria that caused many legitimate web sites and keywords to be blocked.
Web filtering technology has since grown in sophistication and flexibility, with the newer software solutions backed by intensive manual checking. Today’s families have access to powerful Internet filters that can be customized to reflect their own values or those of their community.