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FAQ Friday: "How does the Website Scoring System Work?"

Last Updated: April 22, 2015

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

The information in this post is outdated. For a detailed description of how our new Web rating system works, visit here.

One of the hallmarks of Covenant Eyes is our scoring system. When an accountability software user accesses a website, every URL on that site will be given a numerical score. This score lets an accountability partner know whether there needs to be a conversation about where the user went and what the user saw online.

How does our system arrive at these scores?

What do the Scores Mean?

Before we look at how the scores are generated we should be reminded about what the numerical scores mean?

A score of less than 10 means the site is probably not a pornographic site. There are rare exceptions, and we ask all Covenant Eyes members to let us know if they come across any such sites so that we can blacklist them (automatically give them a high score).

A score of 10 to 15 usually indicates a mature site. This site may deal with the subject of soft pornography, sex, addiction, anatomy, or it may be mature for a variety of other reasons. This may include medical sites, addiction-recovery sites, certain movie / review sites, or other non-pornographic sites. For example, MySpace and YouTube, while not pornographic as such, may have objectionable material on them. Therefore, we refer to sites that score 10-15 as “Mature or Somewhat Questionable.”

A score of 15 or over suggests that the topic of the site may be pornographic. There are some non-pornographic sites which score over 15, but they are usually obvious by their URL name. Scores of 30 or above are frequently pornographic, or at least very objectionable. Therefore, we simply refer to sites with scores of 15 or above as “Mature or Highly Questionable.”

The Anatomy of a Number

The numerical score is based on three factors.

  • The text contained in the URL – The URL is the Web address. When you see a URL, you will see a “domain name” (probably the name of the website followed by .com or .org or something of that nature). You may also note a string of “nonsense” letters and numbers after the domain name. These are called the “variables.” Covenant Eyes is the only major company that examines the variables in a URL in order to rate it for objectionable content.
  • The text contained in the source code – What is the “source code”? You can see the source code of a Web page in many Internet browsers. For example, if you use Internet Explorer, go to the bar at the top of the browser and click “View.” When the menu drops down click on “Source.” A Notepad document will pop up with the source code in it. To most people it will look like a lot of gibberish, but Covenant Eyes reads that code to detect the presence of objectionable material.
  • The text contained on the Web page itself – Lastly the program scans the page for keywords that might indicate pornographic or objectionable material.

Taken together, the analysis of these three factors enable Covenant Eyes to assign a well-informed score to each URL.

Covenant Eyes Test Drive

I use Google all the time to search for information online. Let’s take the Covenant Eyes scoring system for a test drive, shall we?

Let’s type a rather benign word into my Google search, for example: “coffee.” The URL that appears in my address bar is http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=coffee. The score for this URL is zero (0). Not surprising.

Okay, now let’s type in the word “swim” into the Google search bar. The URL in the address bar for this search is http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=swim. The score for this search is twelve (12). Why? While some of the search results for this term are innocuous, some of the results take us to sites which may not be suitable for an 8-year old to see.

Let’s kick it up a notch. What if I do a Google search for “swimwear”? A search on “swimwear” is mostly limited to retail items, but it can take me to links that can be considered objectionable. The score for this search comes in at twenty-four (24).

Ok, so what if I type in “swimsuit”? When I do this the score comes in at sixty-three (63). Why? Because this search included links for bikini calendars, videos, and such.

Not even a Hint

Notice that Covenant Eyes scoring system is not based purely on whether I viewed pornography. In fact, merely typing in “swimsuit” into Google yielded a high score even though I didn’t click on any of the options given to me in that search.

Why? Because Covenant Eyes isn’t merely about staying away from pornography. It is about revealing the temptations we face and the choices we make.

Let’s take the “swimsuit” example. Unless I’m shopping for a swimsuit online, there is no reason I should be typing “swimsuit” into a search bar. (In actuality, if I wanted to buy some new swimwear I probably wouldn’t look online anyway.) The first question a good accountability partner would ask me, based on my report, is: Why were you looking for swimsuits online?

Second, my accountability partner would note that I didn’t click on any links that led me to other high scoring URLs. If I had, they too would show up on my report.

This kind of airtight accountability raises the bar on our Internet use. The question is no longer just whether I viewed pornography, but what my intentions and motives were while online. The report is designed as such so that accountability partners can talk about these issues and encourage one another in their fight for purity.

When the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, he called them to sexual standards that were above anything they had ever heard: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people” (Ephesians 5:3). Covenant Eyes is about helping Internet users to uphold accountability to this standard.

Score Change Requests

If you want to help Covenant Eyes by making a score change request, go to www.CovenantEyes.com, click on “My Account,” type in your username and password and click “Login.” In the My Account, click on “Request for Change/Review of a Web Site Score” and fill in the needed information. Click “Send” when you are finished. It does take some time to process an individual score change request.

Got a Question?

Breaking Free is tackling a frequently asked question about Covenant Eyes and our software every Friday. If you have any questions for Covenant Eyes, please email me, or post a reply to any of these blog posts. I’ll prioritize and try to answer the questions as they come in.

  • Comments on: FAQ Friday: "How does the Website Scoring System Work?"
    1. Luke,

      I noticed that Covenant Eyes often blocks specific Wikipedia pages due to their content instead of blocking the entire website. Can this be done as well with other websites such as YouTube? Can specific YouTube URLs be submitted for filtering?

    2. You can submit specific Youtube URLs for a score change if you think they needed to be scored differently. When the score is adjusted, based on the sensitivity level of your filter, it should block those videos.

      If you want to submit a URL for a score change, you can do the following: Go to http://www.CovenantEyes.com and click on “Member Center.” Type in your username and password and click “Login.” In the Member Center, click on “Request for Change/Review of a Web Site Score.” Follow the prompts from there.

      Here’s a post our CEO, Ron DeHaas, wrote about Youtube scoring: https://www.covenanteyes.com/blog/2008/03/28/youtube-scoring-has-been-refined/

    3. I would be interested in the acountability system

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