Content-control software

Content-control software, commonly referred to as an Internet filter, is software that restricts or controls the content an Internet user is capable to access, especially when utilised to restrict material delivered over the Internet via the Web, e-mail, or other means. Content-control software determines what content will be available or be blocked.

Such restrictions can be applied at various levels: a government can attempt to apply them nationwide (see Internet censorship), or they can, for example, be applied by an ISP to its clients, by an employer to its personnel, by a school to its students, by a library to its visitors, by a parent to a child's computer, or by an individual user to their own computer.

The motive is often to prevent access to content which the computer's owner(s) or other authorities may consider objectionable. When imposed without the consent of the user, content control can be characterised as a form of internet censorship. Some content-control software includes time control functions that empowers parents to set the amount of time that child may spend accessing the Internet or playing games or other computer activities.

In some countries, such software is ubiquitous. In Cuba, if a computer user at a government-controlled Internet cafe types certain words, the word processor or browser is automatically closed, and a "state security" warning is given.[1]


The term "content control" is used on occasion by CNN,[2] Playboy magazine,[3] the San Francisco Chronicle,[4] and The New York Times.[5] However, several other terms, including "content filtering software", "secure web gateways", "censorware", "content security and control", "web filtering software", "content-censoring software", and "content-blocking software", are often used. "Nannyware" has also been used in both product marketing and by the media. Industry research company Gartner uses "secure web gateway" (SWG) to describe the market segment.[6]

Companies that make products that selectively block Web sites do not refer to these products as censorware, and prefer terms such as "Internet filter" or "URL Filter"; in the specialized case of software specifically designed to allow parents to monitor and restrict the access of their children, "parental control software" is also used. Some products log all sites that a user accesses and rates them based on content type for reporting to an "accountability partner" of the person's choosing, and the term accountability software is used. Internet filters, parental control software, and/or accountability software may also be combined into one product.

Those critical of such software, however, use the term "censorware" freely: consider the Censorware Project, for example.[7] The use of the term "censorware" in editorials criticizing makers of such software is widespread and covers many different varieties and applications: Xeni Jardin used the term in a 9 March 2006 editorial in The New York Times when discussing the use of American-made filtering software to suppress content in China; in the same month a high school student used the term to discuss the deployment of such software in his school district.[8][9]

In general, outside of editorial pages as described above, traditional newspapers do not use the term "censorware" in their reporting, preferring instead to use less overtly controversial terms such as "content filter", "content control", or "web filtering"; The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both appear to follow this practice. On the other hand, Web-based newspapers such as CNET use the term in both editorial and journalistic contexts, for example "Windows Live to Get Censorware."[10]