The recent rise in digital services has increased the demand for content-filtering solutions. Market forecasts have illustrated that the global web filtering market is expected to cross $9 billion by 2030. There are several content filtering options that organizations can implement.
Before implementing filtering solutions, it’s important to gain an in-depth understanding of content filtering and the various regulations that pertain to such practices. Doing so will allow businesses to comply with regulations and gain other benefits, such as protection from malware, improved security and network performance, and increased productivity.
What is Content Filtering
Businesses often use various types of filtering measures to manage an employee’s access to online information. Content filtering refers to the process that allows businesses to screen and restrict content or websites that are a threat to security or violate organizational policies.
These solutions can be implemented using hardware, software, or cloud-based alternatives and are often integrated with internet firewalls. In addition, they also allow organizations to apply content restrictions that are specific to each department.
Types of Content Filtering
Content filtering is a vast practice that encompasses various technologies. Some of the most commonly used types of content filtering in 2022 and for 2023 include:
- Internet Filters – content filters that can block access to entire websites or specific pages. Such filters are implemented by using firewalls or browser extensions.
- DNS-based Filters – implemented at the DNS layer and allow organizations to block any content that violates their policies.
- Search Engine Filters – allow users to define various filtering options that control search results and can also work hand-in-hand with enterprise search tools used for internal assets.
- Web Filters – used to restrict access to websites known for hosting malware, phishing, viruses, or websites that are deemed harmful in any other way.
- Proxy Filters – act as a point of access between the users and the internet. Such filters are commonly used for defining access levels.
- Email Filters – used to restrict malicious emails and categorize them as spam by analyzing the header and body and scanning attachments for malware.
How Does Content Filtering Work?
Content filtering solutions define image patterns or text strings containing unwanted information. In such cases, the content is classified as objectionable and is blocked. These solutions use various methods when determining if a page is harmful or violates organizational policies.
Some methods include using allowlists and blocklists, keyword filtering, and using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. Using such filters allows organizations to increase their bandwidth capabilities and reduces the risk of data loss through network endpoints.
Hardware vs Software vs Cloud-based Filtering
These filters are often categorized into hardware, software, or cloud-based. Understanding the difference among these three is critical when implementing a content-filtering solution.
Hardware-based filters work by integrating with an organization’s network infrastructure. These filters often use proxies as filtering protocols between a company’s network and the internet. On the other hand, software-based filters are an essential part of the internet firewall and are categorized as client- or server-based filters.
Where client-based solutions are installed on individual devices, server-based solutions use a separate and dedicated server to ensure filtering protocols. Lastly, cloud-based filters are provided through a Software as a Service (SaaS) model and don’t have any additional software or hardware requirements.
Overview of Content Filtering Rules in the EU
European Union (EU) member states have recently passed content filtering regulations that aim to tackle online hate speech, child sexual abuse material (CSAM), or terrorist content. In addition, these rules aim to hold intermediaries accountable for providing or transmitting content categorized as illicit or misleading.
Under the proposed regulation, the term information society services (ISS) refers to online hosting services, software application stores, internet access services, and interpersonal communication services.
It imposes detection and reporting measures for online child sexual abuse and holds ISS accountable for minimizing the risk of such incidents. In addition, other recent developments regarding content filtering in the EU include responding to hate speech, defamation and copyright protection.
This regulation aims to allow the EU Centre to develop a database of the indicators of CSAM, which various information society services can use for compliance. However, one of the major concerns about these regulations is that they may hurt the users’ right to privacy and their freedom of expression.
It also aims to provide implementation flexibility to the providers so that these regulations can be effectively applied within each service. As per the regulation, hosting and interpersonal communication services that receive a detection order will be required to install filtering mechanisms for identifying the distribution of CSAM.
However, the content filters imposed by the providers should not violate the users’ fundamental rights to privacy and should only extract information that is necessary for detection. According to the regulation, the EU Centre will offer detection technologies to businesses for implementing the detection order. On the other hand, social media and communication providers will be required to ensure human oversight for identifying online CSAM.
Content filtering allows businesses to block content that violates organizational policies. An organization can use hardware, software, or cloud-based solutions to implement such processes. Recent content filtering developments in the EU aim to tackle the online distribution of CSAM, hate speech, and terrorist content.
Businesses can opt to receive detection technologies from the EU Centre for implementing detection orders. In addition to legal compliance, implementing content filtering allows businesses to increase bandwidth, reduce the risk of data loss, and improve network security.