With an abundance of useless internet filters and religious businessmen looking for a solution for a "kosher" internet, Rimon Internet was launched earlier this week, one year after work began on the project.
Rimon, originated by Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, head of the Ramat Gan hesder yeshiva, is the first internet provider in Israel to guarantee a fast, accessible surfing experience while blocking internet sites that include pornography, violence or gambling.
The new system does not rely solely on filtering software, proven easy to crack; it analyzes any internet site that the user is trying to access and "decides" whether or not to permit access. This analysis takes place at real-time and at internet supplier level.
For years, Rabbi Shapira had thought that connecting to the internet was even worse than grilling a fatty slab of pork in a kosher home. About a year ago, it dawned on him that fighting the source of the threat, a tool that had become an essential device in almost every Israeli household, was unproductive.
At a recent convention of teachers at Bnei Akiva yeshivot, Rabbi Shapira reported that he had sent a few yeshiva-student hackers to check out the filter and block services provided by various sites and that they had determined that “they are useless.”
Therefore, he asked Kobi Hacker, former VP at Israeli cellular companies Pelephone and Cellcom, to help him develop a product that would enable optimal, open surfing that would block access to violent and pornographic sites.
Blocking sites simply based on code words is inefficient, explanied Rimon Internet, as many sites that appear to be innocent are not. Instead of the code-word system, the company offers five programs with different filter degrees and a centre where sites, unfamiliar to the system, are manually checked out in real time and decided whether or not they should be censored.
The Secured program will block pornography and violence; Secured Plus will also block women wearing intimate apparel; Secured Squared and Protected will filter out any immodest clothing; and Sealed will enable access only to sites with religious and modest content.
Kobi Hacker, now CEO of Rimon Internet, explained that the developers’ focus was to improve the internet world by making it safer, without hampering the surfing experience and variety.
A survey commissioned by Rimon Internet revealed that 95% of secular, traditional and religious households in Israel with children aged of five to 18 are connected to the internet. The users’ feelings about internet are ambivalent: it gives them a sense of power and having endless opportunities on one habd; but at the same time, they experience loss of control, fear and helplessness.
However, an analysis of these results does not necessarily mean good news for the new internet provider. The data showed that although most parents did express concern about their children accessing inappropriate sites, the new system appeared to attract mostly women from western origin, aged 35-54, with high-school education or less to medium income. It is still far from being generally accepted.
Boaz Nachtstern, editor of the internet site Kipa,
has been following various filter services provided by internet suppliers over the last few years, to test their efficiency for the benefit of his readers. He claims that the solution offered by Rimon Internet is better than the others available on the market today, although it is far from perfect.
Nachtstern said that despite guarantees of an "ideal surfing experience" the user is faced with many problems, including filters that screen out to much or too little.
“I think that whoever tries to solve the problem of internet using technology has failed twice: from the educational-ideological aspect, where he remains with no solution for dealing with a world that has good and bad. He has also failed the test of reality, as censored internet in my home does not guarantee the same conditions at a neighbor or at my work place,” he said.