By Jonas Ducarroz
Are the web filters too strict at Sonoma Academy? Everybody has encountered the “Web Page Blocked!” message when they have tried to access a website that is non-educational or risky, like free game or pornography websites. This is because the school has purchased and is subscribed to FortiGuard.
When asked what the purposes of restricting the web are, Director of Technology Sean Freese answered, “The web filter has two primary purposes. First, it works to prevent accidental exposure to…inappropriate material on the internet. We are required to filter our web content in this regard based on our participation in a federal assistance program called E-Rate, which helps offset our telecommunications costs.
“Second, it helps minimize activities that do not offer much in the way of academic value but either result in high bandwidth usage or high potential for distraction in class. I try to maintain a light touch in this latter regard but student attention and internet bandwidth are ultimately finite resources and I am tasked with taking steps to make sure that they are preserved for academic pursuits.”
FortiGuard is not only used to block gaming websites and 9gag. This type of security is very secure and helps keep the network and our computers safe from malwares.
The filtering system is made up of user inputs and FortiGuard’s own input. The sites that are blocked are blocked because they do not serve an academic purpose and will prevent students from focusing on school.
“On our firewall, I select the categories that we wish to block or allow. Beyond that, I can add a specific site to a ‘White’ or ‘Black’ list to exempt it or block it, respectively. I can also file a request with FortiGuard to re-categorize a particular site if I feel it is being unfairly lumped in with blocked sites,” said Freese.
Many students have expressed that having to sign in is annoying and they sometimes have to put their password in more than once.
“I think they are necessary, but there are some things that I think should not be blocked that are blocked by accident,” said senior Conor Burrows. “I like that Sean and Changa trust us with YouTube. I do not like that Pandora is blocked. If music sites like Pandora are blocked, then YouTube should be blocked, too.”
Conor said, “I think that we should be on our own system. I think that it would be a lot easier and a lot faster if we are on our own. Enough students have their own cellphones that we don’t need to have YouTube and Pandora unblocked. If students want to use YouTube and Pandora they can use their phones and not waste the bandwidth.”