This article was originally published by Mass Private I at Activist Post.
Today, I give you a frightening story about free speech censorship and watchlists just in time for the countdown to Halloween.
A recent article in The Tennessean reveals how the Williamson County School District (WCS) is monitoring students’ free speech and social media posts.
The WCS recently implemented a “threat surveillance program” called Gaggle, which is so invasive and frightening one would be hard-pressed not to call it a “gag” program that limits students’ free speech.
When the WCS was asked to reveal specific details about what Gaggle and authorities are monitoring students’ speech for, they claimed they could not reveal any details “due to federal family protection laws.”
Public & private schools are joining the ranks of alphabet soup surveillance agencies like DHS, the FBI, and the NSA claiming they cannot reveal surveillance details.
The Tennessean was able to shed some light on what Gaggle monitors by saying it, “operates using a mathematical algorithm to identify high-risk words and phrases when students are logged into the district’s server.”
Gaggle’s video was a little more revealing, claiming that they monitor students social media posts 24/7 for things like:
- insulting language
- hate speech
- provocative images
- drug use
- alcohol use and much more
When school districts and private corporations start monitoring students for things like profanity and insulting language, we should all be worried because it will not end there.
Soon social media providers will monitor everyone.
Parents think school districts have crossed the line with Gaggle.
“I’m concerned about the mining of all the other student-written text, regarding bullying, profanity, or anything offensive. Aren’t kids going to be too nervous to write anything that’s potentially controversial? What kind of education will they get if they’re walking on eggshells not to offend the computer algorithm?” WCS parent Thomas Morgan said.
Gaggle’s monitoring of students is a lot more invasive than what parents are being told.
Gaggle’s “Safety Management Dashboard” allows school staff and law enforcement to identify and track individual students who have the highest number of incidents.
The Gaggle Safety Management Dashboard allows superintendents, principals and other educators who are responsible for student safety to investigate and answer the following questions:
- Which of my schools has the highest amount of incidents?
- What educational tools are my students using most frequently?
- How severe are the incidents Gaggle Safety Representatives discover?
- Has the number of inappropriate incidents increased or decreased over time?
- How does my school or district’s incident rate compare with national averages?
Mr. Morgan was right, students will be walking on eggshells because they will be afraid of getting put on a watchlist.
Gaggle is like Alexa on steroids.
A Gaggle video called “do you know what your students are doing online?” is a damning account of exactly how invasive their threat to free speech is.
Gaggle’s Bloomington, Illinois staff listens to and watches students’ social media content in real-time 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The video also revealed that at least seven school districts are using Gaggle: Oklahoma Public Schools, Cincinnati public schools, Duval public schools, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Johnston County schools, Denver Public schools, and last but not least the Williamson County School District.
The Tennessean revealed a horrific vision of how school board members view monitoring students free speech.
“I don’t think it interferes with free speech. I think it is just like any other employer’s authority to monitor their network,” School board member Eliot Mitchell, 3rd District, an IT executive at a computer systems company said.
When faculty and law enforcement start viewing themselves as employers and students as employees, is it any wonder their free speech is in jeopardy?
What makes Gaggle’s incident tracking system even more disconcerting is that it builds a database of each student’s infraction[s] that will follow them throughout their lives.
Allowing corporations to create databases of our kids’ lives in school is horrendous. Soon no one will be able to escape being put on some type of government/corporate watchlist. That terrifies me.