Is the Web Filter Too Strict?

Have you been browsing the web at school and encountered the all too familiar blocked screen? Chances are you have, but is this really necessary, and is there something fishy going on with the filter? I have decided to investigate this matter in the sixth issue of New Way News.

The first time I encountered the web filter was when I tried to visit duckduckgo.com (My preferred search engine); I was immediately greeted by that all-too-familiar blocked screen. At first I was just surprised that the school had a web filter, then I was angered that I could not use one of the sites I visit every day. This made me think: what other sites are blocked? I decided to try some sites that might be blocked, and some that probably won’t be blocked. I’ve compiled two lists that can be found at the bottom of this article, showing what sites are blocked, and some sites that are similar to the blocked sites, but are still available. At first I tried to see what other search engines are blocked, and found the following to not be available: duckduckgo.com, baidu.com, and ask.com. The only thing those sites have in common is that they are all search engines without any sort of account associated with them. The school network blocks theonion.com (a satirical news site), presumably because it is fake news, but the network does not block Chinese propaganda sites. There doesn’t really seem to be much of a pattern to what is blocked.

To  understand if the web filter is too strict, we need to understand what would happen if we removed the filter. At my previous school, we did not have a web filter, so when I found out we had one here, it made me think. Does this school not trust its students? Has there been a past incident were kids have used the network for illegal purposes? I began to ask some people about the filter, and I found this out: “The filter was not always this strict, but when some kids started using the network for bad things (I never found out what), the teachers were forced to tighten down on security.” After continuing the conversation I figured out why something like this was able to happen: there is no system of honor when it came to the school network. At my old school no one would dare to do anything that could lead to the network being restricted. If anyone tried doing such a thing, they would be the most hated person in school! You may ask “Why would the students help enforce the school network policy, what would they gain from it?” It is simple, if we are all responsible, we all get to goof-off online in our free time.

I think that by this point one could draw the conclusion that the web filter is very strict, but is there something more sinister going on? Think about it, the web filter allows all the Chinese propaganda I could find, but blocks independent search engines. The webfilter offers the ability for parents to view EVERYTHING their students look up at school. The web filter also offers a service to spy on student’s PERSONAL social media accounts to see if they are depressed (I don’t think our school uses this service, but it is still offered). It seems to me that the web filter has no sense of personal space or privacy, but it still doesn’t seem malicious. I forgot to mention one final service the all seeing filter offers: SSL decryption. To the average person (and even some computer nerds), the term SSL decryption just sounds like a bunch of techno-wizardry, so I will try to explain it. SSL is a system used by web browsers to send data securely over the internet; without it, everything you do online could be intercepted and used for malicious purposes. The web filter bypasses the SSL protection system by creating its own SSL certificate before any data leaves your browser (Basically it creates a fake id to make your browser give it the data it wants). This is a technique used by malware and spyware to steal your personal information, and we are forced to have it on our school network! If this doesn’t convince you that the webfilter is part of an evil plan to spy on children, then I don’t know what will.

List of blocked sites:
duckduckgo.com (search engine)
baidu.com (search engine)
www.theonion.com (satirical news site)
www.kcna.kp (North Korean propaganda) *this one has a different blocked screen than the others
imgur.com (Image hosting)
ask.com (search engine)

List of sites that surprisingly aren’t blocked:
www.clickhole.com (similar to the onion)
en.people.cn (chinese propaganda)
www.globaltimes.cn (More Chinese propaganda)
www.infowars.com (conspiracy/possible fake news)
www.reddit.com (Entertainment)
www.buzzfeed.com (Stupid quizzes and mild racism)

Sources: https://www.securly.com/