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Positive Vision - Day 100

Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"

DAY 10 - 14. Filters and Monitors

One of the most misunderstood areas of digital technology is filters. Many people believe that once a filter is installed on their phone or computer, their Internet connection becomes safe or even kosher. This is a very simplistic understanding of a highly complex issue, to say the least. While a filter serves to temper the extreme environment of the Internet and give the user a chance to be protected from many of the online challenges, there is no filter that turns the Internet into a preferred environment for a frum Jew, for a number of reasons:

A. Filters have categories and levels. There is no filter on which the categories and levels have been created to fit the Torah standards. A prime example of this is pictures. Once a website is open, most filters do not block immodest pictures at all. Additionally, categories like lashon hara, heresy, and mocking Torah and its sages cannot possibly be blocked.

B. Filters have loopholes. There is no filter that is 100 percent foolproof.

C. Most filters can be removed or neutralized with minimal technical expertise.

D. Filters rely on passwords, and passwords can be compromised.

E. Technology constantly changes in unpredictable ways. Something that is filtered today may not be filtered tomorrow.

F. Many of the detrimental aspects of Internet use cannot be filtered out, e.g., addiction, cognitive damage, time wasting, consumerism, etc.

All this applies to computers. The situation of Smartphones (at the time of the writing) is even worse. The filters for Smartphones are far less customizable than computer filters, and most are plagued with serious loopholes and bypasses.

An additional form of Internet protection is monitoring — having a monitor (friend, rav, wife, chavrusa, etc.) receive a review of one’s Internet activity. Monitoring works on the principle that a person will be embarrassed to view inappropriate content if he knows that someone else will find out. Also, if a person does stumble, the monitor can
encourage him to behave properly. Monitoring needs to be evaluated in two ways: as a replacement for filtering, and as an addition to filtering.

Monitoring fails (is not effective) as a replacement for filtering for a number of reasons:

A. Monitoring only helps for intentional usage; it does nothing to protect the user from inadvertently accessing bad content.

B. The main protection provided by monitoring is embarrassment. When a person is caught a few times, the embarrassment may be gone.

C. Experience shows that when people stumble, the monitor is often incapable of dealing with the situation.

Monitoring as a supplement to filtering is recommended, since it adds an important level of shmirah in a number of areas:

A. The monitor will see how much time was spent online and on which websites. This can help with time-wasting and with categories that do not lend themselves to filtering.

B. If a person found a loophole in the filter, he is vulnerable to the yetzer hara. The cat’s away and the mice are at play. The safeguard was the filter and now it’s gone. With the addition of the monitor, even if the user noticed that the filter is not blocking an inappropriate website he will be afraid to access it.

C. Regardless of the level the filter is set on, there is an area just shy of that level that is only borderline appropriate; although it is not blocked, it should not be accessed continually. Monitoring can discourage excessive accessing of the borderline area.

In summary: Filtering and monitoring do not “kasher” the Internet or eliminate the possibility of abusing it. Filtering and monitoring restore free choice, so that a person may have a chance to protect himself from danger.

User Comments:

Thank you so much, this really helped out as all these points are true from first hand experience

I have a filter and monitor, and I don't have chrome on my smartphone! Baruch hashem!

Very true and very important to be said. There is a yetzer hara inherent in the illusion of kashrus of that which isn’t blocked simply because it isn’t blocked

Its very helpful getting aware of the limitations of the filters. Thank you so much!

This is very helpful and advice that works.