Never content to simply let America take a bad idea and run with it alone, these past few years have seen our friends in the UK slowly start to lose their collective minds concerning terrorism and radical Islam. It’s hard to be too terribly snarky about it, considering here in America we’ve done our best to perfect overreacting to terrorism, but when the UK decided to institute something like Orwellian “thought crime,” it was still worth noting how dumb of an idea it was. But our British friends weren’t done. Now, schools throughout the country are being offered some very special software that will allow teachers to spy on student activities to try to weed out the eventually-maybe-might-be-radicalized.
Schools are being offered new software that helps teachers spy on pupils’ potentially extremist online activity. It alerts teachers if pupils use specific terrorism-related terms or phrases or visit extremist websites on school computers, laptops or tablets. Teachers are encouraged to look for a pattern of behaviour rather than raise the alarm after a single warning.
This software is being offered in an effort to help schools comply with the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, which puts the onus on schools to prevent children from becoming terrorists, because apparently everyone is in the business of counter-terrorism these days. It must be quite nice to be in the national security business in the UK, given how the government has managed to simply foist their responsibilities upon public citizens with nothing better to do than teach the stewards of the nation’s future.
And that last line in the quote, the one about how teachers are encouraged to look for ongoing patterns rather than flying off the handle if a student happens to look up “jihad” on Google? Yeah, because teachers are clearly the best able and most trained when it comes to making those kinds of judgements. They’re not. You know who is? The god damned people in the counter-terrorism business. Maybe stop shirking your responsibility and do the damned job.
Those producing this software are just full of the old “the internet is just the worst” tropes, too.
Sally-Ann Griffiths, of Impero Software, which designed the program, said: “With a widely reported increase in the number of children being radicalised, it’s vital that schools put measures in place to prevent pupils coming to harm online. By defining terms such as ‘yodo’, a phrase used by jihadist sympathisers meaning ‘you only die once’, the glossary gives teachers, who are part of the solution to the problem, the tools they need to identify, intervene and safeguard at-risk pupils.”
Heh, yodo, that’s actually pretty good. Less good is someone pimping this privacy-invading, research-chilling, conversation-stopping spyware retreating to the argument-safe-house position of relying on “widely reported” non-statistics and appeals to protecting the children. On the other hand, I suppose it’s quite a nice lesson for these children to find out what life will be like as an adult. Thanks to the NSA and its international counterparts, they can expect to be surveilled in much the same way when they’re all growed up.