From the music sector, explicit content has evolved and can nowadays be found in all sorts of media contents. In this article we discuss how explicit content filters work, how explicit content filtering has become an in-built feature in several apps and platforms (Google, YouTube, Spotify, Discord, etc.) and how the FlashStart Internet content filter can help you deal with the shortages of such explicit content filters.
1. Explicit content: an introduction
The term “Explicit Content” was born in the 1980s in America. In February 1985 Elizabeth Gore (also known as Tipper), Senator Al Gore’s wife, bought a CD for her daughter, “Purple rain” by Prince. The CD included the song “Darling Nikki”, which talked about masturbation.
Tipper deemed it scandalous and, together with other concerned parents, started the P.M.R.C., the Parents Music Resource Center, an association that aimed to produce a moral judgment on songs. The association then pressured the Senate to pass a law that required the application of an “Explicit Content” label on all songs that talked bluntly about sex, drugs, masturbation and violence.
While their audition with the Senate was still ongoing, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) decided autonomously to apply this parental advisory label, although with different features from what the PMRC was asking. First and foremost, it was the RIAA itself that decided which songs included explicit content.
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2. What is an explicit media content filter?
From its origins in the music industry, the term Explicit Content has evolved over the years and is now used to refer to all sorts of media contents that make explicit reference to:
» All of what is related to sex and porn: this is usually considered the biggest category of explicit content, with growing concerns for the youngest Internet users and the impact that not only images and videos, but also new contacts and “friends” could have on them.
» Other types of adult contents, like drugs, violence of all sorts, gambling, etc. Also in this case, the means of distribution have changed, evolving from only songs, to pictures, videos and, most recently, to the use of streaming platforms and ad-like videos that attract users by showing how “good” these things can potentially be for the users and how they can make them go viral.
All of these contents are now referred to as “inappropriate” or “undesired” or “unwanted” contents. Parents, Network Administrators and Internet Service Providers can choose to try and filter them out from the Internet searches of their children or network users and from the apps they are using. In order to do so, they will need an Internet content filter or an explicit content filter.
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3. How do I filter explicit content?
An explicit content filter does exactly this: it helps you filter contents that are deemed inappropriate for Internet users. Explicit content filters have the ability to recognize contents based on some keywords that are usually associated with explicit content. They do the same with pictures: they calculate, for example, the amount of “skin” color that can be found in a picture and signal it as explicit.
Some search engines and apps offer the explicit content filter option as an in-built feature. For example, if you activate SafeSearch on the Google search engine it will try to eliminate what it perceives as explicit content from the search results. Of course, this works only with Google searches and the SafeSearch option cannot eliminate explicit contents coming, for example, from links opened through emails or chats.
4. Explicit content filter on existing platforms
Google SafeSearch is not the only example of explicit content filter. Other platforms too have their own built-in option that, if enabled, can help parents control what their children are viewing online. Among the best known there are:
» YouTube Restricted Mode: if enabled, this feature allows you to block the streaming of videos that include mature contents. Now, with the amount of videos that are daily uploaded to YouTube, the platform cannot actually check every video to look for potential explicit content. So, it uses artificial intelligence to scan the video title, description, metadata, and reviews to identify any inappropriate contents.
» Spotify Explicit Content Filter: going back to the music industry, the giant music streaming service Spotify signals all songs that include explicit contents with an E tag or an Explicit tag, which you can see in the form of an E on the left of the playlist of songs you are playing.
Spotify allows you to set automatic blocks on all the E songs available on the platform and provides alternative versions for them, free of explicit contents.
» Discord’s explicit content filter: given how much Discord has grown since its foundation in 2015, we will analyze it in depth in the next section of this article.
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4.1 What is the explicit content filter on Discord?
So, first of all, what is Discord? Discord is a platform that was born with the aim of allowing online gamers to communicate while playing online on their favorite gaming platforms. Communication can take the form of chatting but also of calls and video calls and various types of contents can be exchanged on the platform.
Over the years, Discord has evolved a lot and is now one of the preferred communication apps for many teenagers. As stated on its website, Discord is now a dedicated place “to talking and hanging out with your friends, family and communities”. It is not a social network, there is no news feed or counting of likes, but still, it is very much appreciated by the younger generations, especially in America.
On Discord, users can decide who to chat with and whether to be part of groups of up to ten users communicating among themselves. Of course, the growing use of Discord has been accompanied by an increase in “bad” or “dangerous” users, who have set up chats with younger, often inexperienced users and have tried to share explicit content in order to trigger wanted reactions, as well as obtaining explicit pictures and videos from them. As a result, Discord has become a real nightmare for some parents and families.
To try and fix the situation, Discord has become more aware of the dangers connected to its platform and has set up a sort of explicit content filter to help parents monitor what their children are viewing on the platform.
4.2 How do I monitor my son on Discord?
Parents can now choose to activate three security options on the Discord settings:
» Block unwanted friend requests and messages, which allows you to block requests of this type coming from server members you don’t know;
» Block inappropriate content: if you activate the Keep Me Safe option, Discord will try to block and delete all images and contents that seem inappropriate;
» Detect Spoopy Link Filter: if you enable this option, you will be shown a warning about the dangers of the Internet every time you try to open a link received via Discord.
5. The FlashStart Internet content filter: when blocking explicit content is not enough
5.1 Why is an explicit content filter not enough?
As shown above, an explicit content filter may not be sufficient to block contents we wish Internet users, especially the youngest, are not exposed to. In fact, all of the discussed services have some shortages, and the main ones are:
» The platforms do not have the ability to scan in depth all of the contents transiting through them;
» The safety features of each platform are valid only for that single platform and only for the user account where they are set up, not automatically for all the devices connected to the home router;
» Google SafeSearch and Discord are not able to check the content of links: this is a problem in the case of Google because many Internet users have Google as the automatic search engine they use to open links in emails and chats, while Discord is one such chat and communication platform, used to send links as well.
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5.2 What can FlashStart offer?
FlashStart offers you the possibility to solve the problems listed above:
» First of all, FlashStart uses a mix of human and artificial intelligence to continuously scan the Internet looking for new threats and inappropriate contents. In this way, the protection it offers is constantly updated.
» Secondly, you can activate FlashStart both as an end-point application, hence directly on your children’s devices, and at the router level: in this way, you will ensure that all the devices connected to the net can enjoy the protection granted by the FlashStart Internet content filter.
Also, the FlashStart protection can be disabled only using a specific code, which is provided only to the network administrator to grant you a further protection layer.
» Finally, the FlashStart web content filter checks all the incoming and especially the outgoing traffic, controlling all the DNSs that the user is trying to access. This includes also links present in emails and chats and that might turn out to lead to inappropriate contents or that could be well-designed phishing attempts used by hackers to gain access to your device or home network.
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