Internet has grown exponentially since its first introduction to the public. The precursor to the Internet was the ARPANET. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense (Carlitz and Zinga, 1997) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) were the primary creators of the ARPANET. Subsequently however, efforts from private entities and universities have helped develop the network infrastructure, as it exists today. "The goals of ARPA's 'Resource Sharing Computer Network' project were to develop the technology for and demonstrate the feasibility of a computer network while improving communication and collaboration between research centers with grants from ARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO)." (Press, 1996) J.C.R. Licklider of MIT undertook groundbreaking work in developing computer interactivity. Later, he implemented his vision though time-sharing systems-affordable interactive computing. The effort of the NSF also helped to distribute the features of this new networking capability to all major universities and research centers in the U.S.A. (Carlitz and Zinga, 1997)
Purpose of this study
Changes in computer technology and the adaptation of computers to traditional educational needs have required that schools, universities and libraries make the necessary move to introduce the technology in their classrooms. As beneficial as the Internet has become in dissemination of information and knowledge, it is also ridden with websites that contain pornographic, violent and, often, disturbing information that can be objectionable to children and young adults. Access to state-of-the-art computers at affordable rates and Internet connections such as broadband (cable and DSL) and through telephone lines has brought the Internet to homes as well. The increased use of online options for dissemination of information by schools and the use of teaching mediums such as Blackboard have coerced the hitherto reluctant student to use the Internet. Library resources and research facilities are also increasing the use of the Internet by younger individuals all the time.
Teachers and schools have used the Internet introduce students to new ideas and knowledge, expeditiously. The drawback however, has been that the Internet has also become a convenient and restriction free medium for the nefarious, unethical and moral element of society to use as a medium for conducting their own business. Every element of the free and unrestricted nature of the Internet that has made it convenient and valuable for the use of the general public has also made it beyond the control of any single controlling agency. The Internet also transcends geographical boundaries. The ability of a single government or society to put restrictions on the content and the information that is to be displayed can be impossible.
This study identifies the need for content filtering in schools, colleges and universities. There have been varying efforts at content filtering and website blocking. These have been used to ensure that the student is offered reasonable buffering when dealing with the wide world of the Internet. There is no doubt that the environment within which the university operates has a great influence on the quality, range and the scope of information that is conveyed over its networks. There is also growing concern that blocking is required to ensure that the network being used is not bombarded with spam mail that can slow down the service that is provided. Another major concern faced by many democratic nations around the world is the scope and extent of filtration that can be legally mandated to be used in schools and colleges and the level of filtration that can be used in public libraries and government funded projects. In educational environments -- both formal and informal -- the role of the educator or the teacher is critical. The level of interaction that the teacher offers to help system administrators realize the extent and the range of blocking is also essential.
This study seeks to identify the following information based on peer reviewed literature and governmental websites and forums that consider and review such issues. Using content filtering in high schools is essential. There are however, limitations and concerns with using these filters without adequately understanding the limitations and the flaws or drawbacks of this system. As the number of schools connecting and supporting Internet facilities on their premises is increasing, school officials often face the challenge of determining the level of control that is needed and the manner in which these controls are implemented. With this in mind, the following questions are considered significant;
1. What are the different types of filters and how can blocking be successful with the use of different filters?
2. How do Content Filters work?
3. What are the limitations of filters and issues of over-blocking and under-blocking?
4. How do filters impact the first amendment rights of the individual and the role that parents, society and schools play in determining the level of censorship that is needed?
5. Future of filtering and blocking of websites and the level of standardization and knowledge that can be built to support a unified system that can be used by schools and universities with minimum cost on resources and time
Limitations of this study
This study is based on peer reviewed journal and scholarly work only. It is based on secondary research and no primary data was collected and analyzed for the purpose of this study. This study is a generic study and does not identify any single school district or society requirements. In addition, this study considers school in all regions and does not make any single distinction between the level or grade of the school or the cadre of the students that might be using the system or their computer capabilities and knowledge of filtering systems that might be used. In addition, the data will not be restricted to any one country and information will be gathered from as many sources as possible within the scope and limitation of this study.
This study addresses some of the computational and the theoretical limitations of filter and blocking concepts. It does not attempt however, to describe or explain the code writing or the computational methods that can be used for software development or upgrades. The maturity levels and the users within the school system will also determine the type and level of filtering in place. While some aspects of the cost of maintaining a filtering system and the skill and capabilities of the systems administrator are discussed within the scope of this study, the true cost of maintaining this system is difficult to predict and determine. Only after a school or a school district implements such a program, and based on the level of maintenance required, will a true cost of the filtering process be determined.
Computers and technology are also more readily accepted by the younger generation. And as such, students might have more knowledge and insight into the operation of the filters and the blocking. This knowledge might enable them to circumvent the filters and obtain information through other sources. This paper does not identify these factors nor does it discuss the options that schools might have in preventing the problem of student sabotaging the filtering system or using other ways to access the blocked sites.
The technology revolution spearheaded by the introduction of the Internet and the availability of affordable personal computers has changed the manner in which we work, study and entertain ourselves. The evolution of connectivity to the Internet has undergone many stages. From the dial-up modem to the broadband technology as is used today, the connection speed available to the average Internet user is on the rise. Easy access to the Internet and the information that it makes available to the user is seen to be critical for the next age of computer use by citizens of any country. It has been increasingly observed that the computer industry, and the telecommunication and technology industry are converging. This convergence then presents opportunities and threats to users of the Internet.
Exercising complete control and monitoring the Internet is not possible: as it is a true open and global entity that was designed to allow information to be generated at any point and be accessed at any point. There are however many options that are available to users who wish to control the content and the availability of information. Countries like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia have very strict filtering and blocking rules. Access to information is limited and sites that are deemed 'inappropriate' (religion, sites providing information specifically to and about women, sites with sexual content, pages perceived to be hostile to Saudi Arabia and the policies of the region and some entertainment sites) are generally blocked. (Zittrain and Edelman, 2002) The country therefore, needs individuals from the region who are able to identify the topics that are of major concern and block the appropriate sites. The task of blocking also requires that a site with information that is inappropriate does not 'filter' in from other sources.
In the case of this study, when blocking of sites in high schools is referred to it is only applicable…