The Federal Government’s proposed Internet content filter plans have incited furore among the Australian public. The possibility of a compulsory clean-feed program and taxpayers’ dollars involved in trialling and implementing the scheme are some of the reasons for the vociferous response.
Despite the Government’s stated intentions of trying to protect children from being exposed to offensive and indecent material, it is a subjective matter. How do you define offensive and indecent? And who should have the authority to make the final decision?
But there are alternatives already in existence: Downloadable filter software. These kinds of programs usually cost nothing and users can play with the settings for a tailor-made Internet filter.
The following is a list of some popular web filtering solutions that are not only free to download, but gives people the freedom to choose what contents they want to block:
DansGuardian Touting itself as a ‘true’ web content filter, the DansGuardian is an open source program which works by employing methods such as phrasing match, PICS filtering and URL filtering. It also spurns the banned list approach. Although the default settings are aimed at a primary school environment, the product also allows for flexible customisation, with users being able to personalise clean-feed options. The program is free but it is not for commercial use. While it does not support the Microsoft Windows operating system (although users can filter Windows clients by running it on a server), it can be used on Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, Mac OS X, HP-UX and Solaris. Download it here.
SquidGuard This software is a plugin for Squid HTTP/1.0 proxy and acts as filter, redirector and access controller. SquidGuard is a blacklist-based product and can restrict web access by following various orders defined by the user or administrator. This includes blocking access at specified times, to a specified group of users and redirecting certain URLs. Activities when surfing the web can also be logged. The official website also boasts that the software is fast acting. SquidGuard’s open source code is free to use, modify, distribute or sell and is compatible with most operating systems including Microsoft Windows. Download it here.
FoxFilter Working off user-defined criteria, the Firefox web browser add-on is capable of keyword filtering or even blocking content of entire site. Password-protected settings and security features are included to thwart unauthorised users from bypassing, uninstalling or disabling the software. Users can select the degree of sensitivity through the settings. Although security features are only available to registered users, the program itself is free to download. It supports Linux, Mac and Windows operating systems. Download it here.