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.

If you have a question or would like to learn more about the UK’s No.1 Web Filter, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to help.

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