One of the reasons the Lightspeed Systems Web Filter is such a powerful solution for schools is our dynamic URL database. Lightspeed has a robot army working hard to crawl and categorize sites on the Web, and we complement this with a team of humans that is responsible for maintaining and updating our database. Together, they make the Web safe for thousands of school districts around the world.
Here are seven things we bet you didn’t know about our website database.
1. Anyone can see our URL database — really! The Lightspeed Systems database may be proprietary, but we also believe in transparency. That’s why anyone can use our Dynamic Database Lookup (https://archive.lightspeedsystems.com) to see how a website is categorized and why; the last time the site was reviewed; whether it was manually or automatically categorized; and other details. You can use the same tool to submit a website for review if you feel a website has been inappropriately blocked.
2. Every URL is rechecked at least once every 90 days. The database department is responsible for staying on top of an enormous amount of content. (Today, our database contains more than 60 million websites.) However, because the Web is a dynamic place, we check each of those 60 million websites every three months to make sure our database is up to date.
3. Our database gets smarter all the time. “We feed our team about 5,000 to 6,000 websites each week to review what the categorization engine has done,” Steve Hefner, our database operations director, says. If the database team finds mistakes, those mistakes are fed back to the engine so it can learn from these errors, decreasing future categorization errors. Thanks in part to our ever-more-intelligent robots, the amount of review requests we receive has decreased by about 95 percent since our database was created.
4. The robots check our work, too. “Just as the categorization engine can make mistakes, humans can as well,” says Steve. Because of that, the robots check any human-entered database entries. Those mistakes are quickly identified by the robots and corrected by us.
5. We take your review requests seriously. If you believe a URL should be recategorized, tell us why. “We always look at the reason for review,” Steve says. You can submit a website for review without providing any additional information beyond the URL, but submissions that include a contact email address and reason for review automatically go to the top of the review queue. (And, yes, we read every one!) The database team will also contact you when the review is complete; most website review requests are handled within an hour.
6. The Lightspeed team helps keep the Web honest. Not only does Lightspeed Systems have robots and humans monitoring websites, Steve and the team watch sites to make sure they uphold their acceptable use policies. “For instance, we have Pinterest in the adult category because they don’t honor their usage policy,” says Steve. “I personally reported graphic material and they never removed it.”
7. You can get in touch with our database team anytime. If you have a question about our database beyond a simple website review request, email us! Steve invites you to reach out to the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.