Aaah, the traditions of a new school year. New teachers, new backpacks, new crushes—and algorithms trawling students’ social media posts.
Blake Prewitt, superintendent of Lakeview school district in Battle Creek, Michigan, says he typically wakes up each morning to twenty new emails from a social media monitoring system the district activated earlier this year. It uses keywords and machine learning algorithms to flag public posts on Twitter and other networks that contain language or images that may suggest conflict or violence, and tag or mention district schools or communities.
There’s little doubt that students share information on social media school administrators might find useful. There is some debate over whether—or how—it can be accurately or ethically extracted by software.
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Note: The monitoring of social media by school districts is not something new. For example, in 2013 we shared this report about Glendale Public Schools in California, “Glendale Unified Hires Local Company To Monitor Students’ Social Media Posts” (via CBS Los Angeles)