Internet users all over the world are more and more exposed to inappropriate content online. Be it the home network or the office one, the Internet is now flooded with inappropriate contents that unaware users may end up accidentally clicking on. In this article we discuss the effects of exposure to inappropriate contents, especially for younger users, and show how FlashStart can help you grant safety of navigation, both at home and in the office.
1. Inappropriate content: an introduction
Inappropriate content takes many forms: it may appear to you as a disturbing image or picture, an upsetting video or an offensive written text. Internet users can come across inappropriate content by chance, for example when they inadvertently click on a link or picture, or they may deliberately look for it. Indeed, human curiosity is an essential part of our lives, but while it has been the engine of major discoveries and developments over the centuries, it is now often being exploited against human interest itself.
Apart from the different forms it takes, inappropriate content is also linked to different topics. Traditionally, the main focus of inappropriate content has been sexually explicit material but recently other themes have been added, such as violence, both physical and political, linked to extremism or terrorism, hateful or offensive materials and false or misleading information. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, this last item has seen a steep rise because fake news started being used as a bait to attract Internet users towards dangerous domains.
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1.1 Australia: a case study
Around the world, governments and politicians have been looking up to Australia to understand how they can help their citizens, and especially parents, to deal with the problem of inappropriate content. In 2015 the Australian government was the first in the world to create a dedicated agency whose aim is to keep its citizens safer online.
Since then, the so-called eSafety Commissioner has been Australia’s independent regulator for online safety. The team includes educators, investigators, lawyers, policy makers, technology experts, digital specialists and other professionals who share the common goal of granting a safer and more positive online experience to their citizens.
According to eSafety research published in April 2020, 57% of young people in Australia in the age range 12-17 have seen real violence that was disturbing, 33% have seen images or videos promoting terrorism and, based on a study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, nearly half of the children between the ages of 9-16 experience regular exposure to sexual images.
Australia is one of the few countries that tries to widely monitor and closely follow the development of the situation on the ground, thanks to its dedicated resources. Nevertheless, the eSafety Commissioner itself highlights how difficult it is to measure the exposure of young people since kids might “not tell anyone due to embarrassment, confusion or fear”.
The good news is that there are other governments that are starting to accept the existence of the problem because they finally understand how real its impact is in everyday life. As a consequence, Australia has become a case study on the agendas of several governments and institutions.
One such institution is the European Union. According to news reported on the eSafety website, in February 2022 some members of the European Parliament held five days of high-level talks with Australia’s eSafety Commissioner and the country government to learn more about their approach to online safety regulation and child online protection.
The visit came at a critical moment, since the European Commission was set to release new legislation to combat child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as develop the Digital Services Act.
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2. Why is it important to block inappropriate content?
The discussion up to now has highlighted mainly the pervasiveness of inappropriate content and how even governments are trying to pass legislation in order to block inappropriate content. But why is it so important to achieve this goal?
The answer varies, depending on the environment considered, hence whether we are talking about a household or a workplace.
2.1 Blocking inappropriate content at home
The need to block inappropriate content is especially felt by parents, who fear their children might be exposed to images, videos and texts that may have disturbing consequences on the young minds of their kids.
Indeed, if you don’t put in place measures whose aim is to block inappropriate content, your children may come across images, videos and texts that can be upsetting, disturbing or offensive. If they are not ready for this from a developmental point of view, a wide range of consequences may arise, including behavioral issues (both towards themselves and towards the others) and mental problems that might actually show only in the future.
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2.2 Blocking inappropriate content at work
While families need to safeguard their kids given their inability to correctly perceive the danger, companies and workplaces in general aim to block inappropriate content for different reasons.
First and foremost, there is a certain business or institutional image that workplaces wish to be associated with…and there are definitely images with which they do not want to be connected, inappropriate content being one such item. In a highly competitive environment like today’s business environment, maintaining a good reputation is essential, and your employees are a major part of such reputation.
Also, inappropriate content is often used as bait by hackers who aim to convince your employees to click on an attractive link and actually end up downloading malicious content into the company network. The consequences range from the appropriation of data and files, to the halting of business processes, to the inability to access the company network and devices. The aim is usually to make a profit from these actions, generally by requesting the payment of a ransom. Find out more about this topic here.
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3. FlashStart: your fearless ally in the fight against inappropriate content
The Internet today offers several tools that promise to help you block inappropriate content, and webfilters have definitely become a preferred solution. Webfilters act as a checkpoint between the household or company network and the Internet. Based on the DNS system, they check all users’ requests to access a given website and, given the result of the check against the control database, they either allow the user to continue with the navigation or block it outright.
The DNS content filter offered by FlashStart is a practical and flexible solution that can be easily set up and that protects users from a wide variety of contents:
» Dangerous contents: FlashStart prevents access to domains linked with malware, trojans, phishing attempts, viruses and other malicious contents.
» Inappropriate contents: FlashStart blocks access to all the types of inappropriate or unsuitable contents listed in this article and also to online gaming platforms and websites connected to drugs.
» Distracting contents: you can instruct FlashStart to block access also to all sorts of contents deemed distracting for the final user, from social media, to streaming platforms, to websites dedicated to online shopping.
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3.1 FlashStart, the DNS content filter that fits your needs
So, what are the features that make FlashStart the ideal webfilter to block inappropriate content?
» First of all, FlashStart uses a mix of Artificial Intelligence algorithms, Machine Learning techniques and human intelligence to continuously scan the Internet looking for new threats to uncover.
» Secondly, the FlashStart tool is fully cloud-based. This means that, whenever a new threat is identified and added to the relevant list, it becomes instantaneously available in the cloud and the user will enjoy the updated protection with no need for action on his side or lengthy reboots.
» Finally, you can install FlashStart both at the router level and as an end-point application, granting the Internet safety of your users also when outside the home or company network. Find out more about this in this dedicated article.
3.2 Customizing FlashStart
FlashStart is extremely flexible and you can set it up in the way that best satisfies your needs. For example, you can decide to schedule the blocks and, say, make social media unreachable during work hours while allowing access to them during breaks.
Also, you can assign different profiles to different users and user groups and, say, allow the purchasing department to access online shopping platforms while blocking them for the other employees.
Finally, FlashStart can be fully integrated with the Microsoft Active Directory and with Google WorkSuite, thus making it possible to replicate your company structure directly into the tool and making it easier to manage personnel turnover
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You can activate the FlashStart® Cloud protection on any sort of Router and Firewall to secure desktop and mobile devices and IoT devices on local networks.