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The importance of non-English web filtering

Non-English filtering

Schools with student populations where English is not the first language must have a filter capable of handling different languages.

Although English will be the majority of content used for education purposes, it’s common for searches for illicit material to start in a student’s native language, often because filters pay less attention to this.

For example, ‘joc online’ is how a Romanian student might search for online games. This gets past the web filter and it’s a great way to make new friends!

These ad-hoc language lessons are going on in schools around the country.

Domain names are ASCII. ASCII gave a choice of 128 characters, of which the first 30 weren’t printable, and capitals and lower-case count as one each. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t leave room for accented characters like é, or cyrillic (“russian”) characters.

We now have Unicode – a unifying character set that currently offers 137 thousand characters. The most common representation, UTF-8, is used in over 90% of websites, however it is very new to DNS.

What does this mean for web filtering? Even though DNS queries still don’t support UTF-8 or Unicode, browsers, (which we update much more often), have taken on the role. International domains are now translated by the browser. Bücher.de is an example “IDN” – International Domain Name. It’s a German bookstore. It’s not visible in a DNS lookup – and some web filters fail here too. The browser however will translate it to the ASCII representation xn-- bcher-kva.de – which redirects to www.buecher.de

It’s important to check two things when considering a quality filter.

  1. How well do they categorise search terms in the languages used by your students?
  2. Can they filter based on international domain names? It’s common for searches for illicit material to start in a student’s native language, often because filters pay less attention to this.

When it comes to complying with the statutory requirements and guidelines, keeping up to date with the latest technology can be difficult. However, to keep your students safe, you’ll need to consider how the way your web filter is deployed could impact your compliance. 

Whether your filter is deployed on-premise, in the cloud or through a hybrid approach is up to your school, college or MAT, but it’s essential to have the facts before making your decision. 

Ensuring your web filter is able to recognise Non-English languages is just one factor to consider when reevaluating your current filter setup, or choosing a new solution. 

You’ll also need to understand the way in which your filter is deployed might impact the capabilities you’ll have. Whether your filter is deployed on-premise, in the cloud or through a hybrid approach is up to your school, but it’s essential to have the facts before making your decision.

See a full breakdown and comparison of deployment options in our free whitepaper – where we compare the pros and cons of each to help you make your decision.

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