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Schools Monitoring Pupils’ Web Use With ‘Anti-radicalisation Software’

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The out of control counter-terrorism industry in the UK has a new feature, software that is being sold to schools as a way to fight radicalization by spotting “extremist-related” language among pupils. Truth is stranger than fiction.

By Diane Taylor, The Guardian

Schools are being sold software to monitor pupils’ internet activity for extremism-related language such as “jihadi bride” and “YODO”, short for you only die once.

Several companies are producing “anti-radicalisation” software to monitor pupils’ internet activity ahead of the introduction of a legal requirement on schools to consider issues of terrorism and extremism among children.

Under the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015, which comes into force on 1 July, there is a requirement that schools “have due regard to the need to prevent pupils being drawn into terrorism”.

One company, Impero, has launched a pilot of its software in 16 locations in the UK as well as five in the US. Teachers can store screenshots of anything of concern that is flagged up by the software. Other companies offering anti-radicalisation software products to schools include Future Digital and Securus.

Impero has produced a glossary of trigger words such as “jihobbyist” (someone who sympathises with jihadi organisations but is not an active member) and “Message to America” (an Islamic State propaganda video series).

Schools involved with the Impero pilot already have contracts to buy or rent other software from the company, and are trialling the anti-radicalisation software at no extra charge. They are in areas including London, County Durham, Essex, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Yorkshire and Staffordshire.

A spokeswoman for Impero said: “The Counter-terrorism and Security Act places a duty on schools to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Since the introduction of the act at the beginning of the year we have had a lot of schools approach us requesting a keyword-detection policy focused on radicalisation.

“The system may help teachers confirm identification of vulnerable children, or act as an early warning system to help identify children that may be at risk in future. It also provides evidence for teachers and child protection officers to use in order to intervene and support a child in a timely and appropriate manner.

“It is not about criminalising children, it is about helping schools spot the early warning signs so that risk in relation to an individual can be assessed and measured, and counter-narratives and support can be put in place to help educate children before they potentially become victims of radicalisation.”

Different schools are interpreting the anti-radicalisation clause in the new counter-terrorism legislation in different ways. Headteachers interviewed by the Guardian said it was a very difficult issue for schools to get involved with.

Some schools are simply signalling that they are aware of the requirement to take the issue into account, while others are being more proactive. One school is east London is offering workshops on spotting signs of radicalisation.

Monega primary school in Newham has invited parents of children as young as four to a workshop on 26 June. The invitation states: “Come and join us for this session led by a social worker on how to prevent and detect radicalisation. All parents are welcome.”

Yahya Birt, a Muslim academic specialising in British Islam, tweeted about the four-year-olds potentially being monitored for radicalisation: “They’re pre-lingual, let alone pre-political. It’s bonkers.”

Last month there was controversy over a questionnaire circulated to pupils in five primary schools in Waltham Forest, another east London borough with a large Muslim population.

The questionnaire asked pupils leading questions about their views and beliefs including whether or not they would marry someone from a different religion, whether they would be prepared to hurt someone who made fun of their race or religion and whether they felt God had a purpose for them.

Waltham Forest council later said the questionnaires would be withdrawn. It said they had been produced by the behavioural insights team, also known as the “nudge unit”, which started life inside 10 Downing Street and is partly government-owned.

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  • RealSuperSand

    Most of what I’m waiting on are indie games.

  • Tanveer Wan Khanobi

    It also makes me look Caucasian 😀

  • Just_Stopping_By

    I think the shot in Step 4 makes you look fat: http://www.wikihow.com/Borrow-Money-from-Your-Parents-Without-Permission .

  • Tanveer Wan Khanobi

    Mine will be fine. The joys having a parent bank. 😀

  • golden izanagi

    “for honor” hmm *looks at the e3 presentation on youtube.* oh boy I think my wallet will be sad in 2016.

  • Tanveer Wan Khanobi

    What do you think for eh game For Honor?

  • mindy1

    While keeping an eye on kids is not a bad thing, I just hope that they talk to them first before anything else is done.

  • Sam Seed

    Not really, I’m more of a casual gamer now that the burden of having to look after kids means I don’t really have much time. Still looking forward to Tekken 7, Just Cause 3 and Uncharted 4.

  • golden izanagi

    I have and I can only think that 2016 is going to be a good year for gamers with games like dark souls 3, the new fire emblem, and fallout 4.

  • Tanveer Wan Khanobi

    Senor Sam, you’re a gamer, have you been keeping up with E3?

  • http://aayjay.wordpress.com/ AJ

    Which site does ISIS use to recruit and why can’t it be blocked? I have never understood that. The conspiracy theory would be that they do want people to search and get flagged.

  • Sam Seed

    Lol I agree.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    These are not the words you are looking for. *Jedi handswipe*

  • HerrSkolly

    This seems very much the boys’ thread with all this talk of Star Wars and boobies.

  • Sam Seed

    Wow, that’s cool!

  • HerrSkolly
  • Sam Seed

    “You must unlearn what you have learned”. Yoda

  • Sam Seed

    Blue-footed Boobies? Where does one find those?

  • Tanveer Wan Khanobi

    They’ve even got a handy list of all the words that are blacklisted. It’s almost like they want me to troll the IT technicians.

  • Rajano

    “It’s a trap!”

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Then they better hope they weren’t also discussing Admiral Ackbar.

  • Rajano

    What if some kid is talking about Star Wars and misspells “Yoda”?

  • HerrSkolly

    Perhaps they could expand this further to include looking for signs of potential unwanted teenage pregnancies. Of course, at that point, no one in Science Class will be writing a report on Blue-Footed Boobies … too bad really, Boobies are super.

  • HerrSkolly

    Tanveer, of course you will be Googling the he|| out of keywords, no?

  • Just_Stopping_By

    What a great idea, but maybe it doesn’t go far enough. I did a Google search on the jihadwatch site and it estimated over 2,000 hits on “extremism”, over 13,000 on “kill”, and over 17,000 on “hate”. I tried looking up something nice like “interfaith dialogue”, but the top link was an article titled: The dangers of Muslim-Christian ‘interfaith dialogue’.

    Somebody ought to investigate the people who run that site for more signs of dangerous radicalization! All the signs are already there!

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