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Guidelines for the Use of Filtering Software with GALILEO

Because GALILEO provides access to many independent online resources, each of which has different content, structure, and requirements for access, it is not possible for GALILEO staff to state definitively what Internet filtering approaches are fully compatible with GALILEO as a whole. However, many K-12 schools and public libraries have adopted such approaches, and many more are now facing this necessity because of the Children’s Internet Protection Act. Because we have received so many questions, we have created the following guidelines.

Filtering Internet Content

Software that controls access to certain types of Internet content can be divided roughly into two categories.

Keyword-blocking software screens the text and sometimes the URL (Universal Resource Locator, or “address”) of every Web page that a user attempts to view. If that text contains certain words or phrases that the manufacturer or, in some cases, the purchaser of the software has decided are inappropriate, then the software does not allow the user to view the page.

Site-blocking software does not examine the text of a requested Web page; instead, it determines whether the URL belongs to a Web page that the manufacturer or, in some cases, the purchaser of the software has already decided is inappropriate. If this is the case, then the software does not allow the user to view the page.

Some manufacturers offer software that uses both of these approaches. Some filtering applications are installed on individual computers, while others - especially site-blocking software, which relies on a large database of blocked URLs - exist on a separate server through which some or all of an institution’s Internet traffic must pass.

Both keyword blocking and site blocking can be inaccurate: neither approach can ensure completely that all inappropriate sites will be blocked or that all genuinely appropriate sites will be accessible. This is an obstacle that users of this software cannot avoid, but the following guidelines can help those who use this software to avoid, or at least diagnose, some common problems.

Keyword Blocking and GALILEO

The contents of GALILEO’s databases may include keywords or phrases that are prohibited by keyword-blocking software. The presence of these keywords or phrases may cause error messages, incorrect search results, and other problems. GALILEO’s limited testing has shown that the effectiveness of some keyword-blocking applications varies significantly from one database vendor’s website to another.

Site Blocking and GALILEO

Some types of site-blocking software allow their administrators to create a list of URLs, often called an “exceptions list,” that users should always be allowed to reach. In order to make all GALILEO resources accessible to their users, some administrators have asked the GALILEO staff to provide an exceptions list that includes all URLs a user might encounter during a GALILEO session. A comprehensive list of addresses and domain names and information about their use are now available.

By preventing the addresses in this list from being blocked, cached, or otherwise affected by filtering software or a proxy server, the administrator can ensure full GALILEO access for an institution’s users. It may also be necessary to change browser security and privacy settings for access to some resources; see the “Troubleshooting Common Problems” page for more information.

Other Guidelines

GALILEO’s web directories, such as SIRS’ SKS WebSelect and Discoverer WebFind databases, include links to thousands of Web sites created and maintained by people who are not affiliated with GALILEO. Some of these sites may be blocked by some keyword-blocking or site-blocking software.

Newsgroups, chat applications, and instant messaging services do not play any part in GALILEO sessions, so institutions’ decisions about blocking access to these services or filtering the text sent and received through them will not affect GALILEO access. E-mail does play some role in GALILEO’s database interfaces, many of which allow users to e-mail citations, articles, and search results lists. It is up to each institution to decide whether the advantages of these features are greater than the possible risks of e-mail abuse.

GALILEO and many database vendors’ websites use cookies to help recognize users’ institutional affiliations. Though GALILEO does not require users to accept cookies, any filtering software that prevents workstations from accepting cookies may prevent users from reaching some vendors’ databases.