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How does filtering work in RM SafetyNet
Published Date : 19 Aug 2015   Last Updated : 05 Mar 2019   Content Ref: TEC4690709  


How it works

RM SafetyNet is used by schools and colleges, as well as local authorities, libraries and learning grids, to control access to the Internet and provide a safe online environment for users. RM SafetyNet can be used to prevent access to specified websites (or individual pages, files or folders), to prevent downloads of specified file types and to prevent searches on specified search terms.

In this section we introduce the key concepts for understanding RM SafetyNet. 

Rules and filter lists
Control of Internet access is based on rules that control what URLs and files users can access (web rules) or what they can search for (search rules). These rules either deny access to the specified content or search (deny rules) or allow access to it (allow rules). Rules are organised into filter lists.
Click to view a a larger image
  Image showing the filter list

Allow rules can be used to override the effects of broader deny rules. By using combinations of deny and allow rules, you can achieve precise control of Internet access - for example, blocking most of a website but allowing access to specific pages.

Content filtering
RM can also filter the text content of certain files. One of the filter lists is named RM Active-Adapt Content Filter. This contains a list of words and phrases, each of which is rated positively or negatively for suitability in educational use. The content of HTML and plain text files that users try to access is searched against these terms and access is denied if the overall rating score exceeds a threshold value. This content filtering is not applied to images, audio and video clips and other file types such as Microsoft® Word processed documents, archive files and .pdf files.

Sources of filtering lists

Filter lists can come from different sources:

  • RM filter lists - These filter lists have been assembled with guidance from teachers as well as organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation and Childnet. The rules in these filter lists prevent access to websites containing, for example, offensive materials (such as pornographic or violent imagery), distracting or time-wasting materials (such as social networking and non-educational games) and downloads of certain types of files (such as program or music files). Schools and local authorities cannot directly edit these provided filter lists, but they can influence what they contain and they can select the ones they want to use. The filter lists are constantly evolving and updates are automatically applied online to registered organisations. The RM Active-Adapt Content Filter is a unique list that filters content within certain files (see above).
  • Parent body filter lists - Parent bodies such as local authorities and learning grids can create their own filter lists for use by their schools, either to extend filtering or to override rules in the RM filter lists they inherit.
  • School filter lists - School establishments can create their own filter lists to extend filtering or to override the rules in the RM and parent body filters they inherit.

All of these filter lists can be updated at any time. Your establishment can choose which lists to apply and set a schedule for when each list operates. Note that schools and any relevant parent bodies have the ultimate say in what content their students, staff and other users have access to.

Web access policies
Lists of rules are applied to Internet users through web access policies. Without User Based filtering (see image below), each school establishment has a single policy for all users.
Click to view a larger image
  Image showing web access policies without User Based filtering

With User Based filtering (see image below), each school establishment can apply different policies to groups of users, so you can fine tune the filtering according to their different needs.
Click to view a larger image
  Image showing web access policies with User Based filtering

Setting priorities

Multiple rules can potentially conflict with each other. It's important to be clear about the priority in which rules, lists and policies are applied.

  • Between rules in the same filter list: Allow rules take priority over deny rules. Then, as soon as a matching rule is found, it is applied.
  • Between lists in the same policy:
    • Parent bodies (e.g. local authorities) can order the priority of their own lists. They can also set each of their lists as higher/lower priority than their child schools' lists.
    • Schools can order the priority of their own lists.
    • RM lists have a lower priority than parent body and school lists.
    • If no matching rules are found in any of the filter lists, access is allowed.
Click to view a larger image
  Image showing the setting priorities

  • Between groups (policies): In User Based filtering, a user maybe a member of more than one group, so the groups are prioritised to determine which group's policy applies. See prioritising groups.

What happens when a user is blocked?

Users who try to access a filtered website or carry out a banned search will see a filter message page instead. This shows which filter list blocked their access: their school's, their local authority's or RM list.

As an RM SafetyNet administrator, you can choose whether this message page displays a contact name or email address. You can also set up a link to the school's or local authority's own filter policy page. This will help users to find out why a particular filter list was applied and remind them of the relevant Acceptable Internet Usage Policy.

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Document Keywords: SafetyNet, safety net, filter

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