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School Pays To Get an Algorithm To Scan Students' Social Media For Threats and Suicide Risks Posts (wbur.org) 96

When someone visits the buildings of Shawsheen Valley Technical High School in Billerica, as they walk through the secure foyer, they have to get their driver's license or another state-issued ID scanned. But the secure foyer does kind of a high-level national background check, too, explains Superintendent Tim Broadrick. From a report: The "LobbyGuard" scanner is the size of a computer tablet. It scans a driver's license, takes a picture of the school visitor and if all is OK with the person's background check, almost instantly clears the person to enter the school. An employee behind a window then pushes a button and unlocks the door to the school hallway. Amid nationwide concern about school shootings, there's talk at Shawsheen Tech of covering the wall of glass in the lobby with a special film to make it harder for a bullet to pierce. There's also a police officer -- known as a school resource officer -- stationed at the school. He has an office in the lobby. And the school has adopted another security measure to try to protect students from attacks -- one you can't see. It's a computer program designed to detect threats against the school in social media posts. And it runs 24/7.

"It's receiving and filtering and then gives us alerts when certain kinds of public communication are detected," Broadrick explains. Shawsheen Tech buys the social media scanning service from a Vermont-based company called Social Sentinel. It's one of many technology firms doing some form of social media scanning or monitoring. Social Sentinel claims it's the only one with expertise in protecting schools. Shawsheen Tech has about 1,300 students. It pays Social Sentinel approximately $10,000 per year, according to Broadrick.

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School Pays To Get an Algorithm To Scan Students' Social Media For Threats and Suicide Risks Posts

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's not time to stop being social but tis long past time to stop using "social media". You can be social without Facebook harvesting everfuckingthing you say and do and giving it away to companies like this. You can chat directly with your friends via encrypted IM. You can exchange pictures, same.

    Stop putting mega data harvesters in the middle of everything. Eschew Google, esp Docs. Eschew Facebook and Instagram. Bring the internet back to its peer to peer distributed concept.

    Social media is antisocia

  • so we can avoid a few common sense gun regulations like background checks with enforcement to own guns, waiting periods and the like. But of course if we did that it would add delays to gun purchasing and cut down on impulse buys. A friend of a friend just the other day walked in to buy a pistol and managed to walk out with an AR-15 because he got caught up in how cool it looked. Make him wait 3 days and he'd have come to his senses and just bought the pistol he came in for.
    • We already have mandatory background checks, many states have waiting periods, and there's an abundance of "and the like".

      I conclude that you don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

    • by cstacy ( 534252 ) on Friday March 23, 2018 @08:43PM (#56316943)

      A friend of a friend just the other day walked in to buy a pistol and managed to walk out with an AR-15 because he got caught up in how cool it looked. Make him wait 3 days and he'd have come to his senses and just bought the pistol he came in for.

      I'm sorry your "friend" blew that money that you needed for groceries, but it's amazing that you desire for a federal law to keep your impulse shopping under control! You try to make it sound like buying a semi-automatic rifle, rather than a semi-automatic pistol, is a bad thing. Get over your buyer's remorse, enjoy your AR-15, and next time you can get another Glock. If your wife will let you go there unchaperoned again.

    • The shooters who killed more than a couple prepared for years. Your friend chose the superior weapon, unless you think he needs to be armed in everyday life; but don't worry, he will certainly buy the handgun too
    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      We abandoned common sense, the very second we treated social media as true and factual. Social media is meant to be a social playground of fun and fantasy, not real world. It corruptly got turned into real world to ruthlessly exploit the psychology of people, for governments to attack citizens and for an endless flow of advertising bullshit.

      Social media should be a game, a complete fantasy, have fun creating what ever identity you like, want to call yourself a space pirate, feel free to do so. Want to self

    • The regulations you want have been in place for decades. Have you ever bought a gun in the US?

  • Then again, I'm not likely to shoot up anybody with my Mini 30, 92f, 10/22, nor Mark 2 pistol. Point being, I'm a damned good shot with all of them, but if you ain't made of paper nor trying to break into my house you have nothing to fear from me.
    • No social media accounts will be the next round of privacy victims. You don't have one? You must be hiding something!
      • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
        Burtosis,

        So many random services and products now demand an email, cell phone other contact data.
        How long before they demand "social media" to stay in contact?
        The lack of social media now starting an investigation to find a hidden social media account?
        Trying to discover if a US student has another way of communication? An account lacking most account details but a classical music CD collection?

        The only way to detect that would be gov backed contractor malware pushed out to all home computers. Just t
        • It's comforting your post is still up.
          • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
            Have to wonder what software a gov at a state and city level are getting for the price. That they can map out most online usage.
            Facial recognition back over years of accounts to find patterns still in use?
            4 hops of most accounts would map a community. Finding many of the unexpected and random accounts in use?
            Creating new random accounts often and never going back for reuse them would not be protected from malware getting into the same home computer network.
            • Snowden showed us how the NSA has equipment installed on the internet backbone all over the world, you wouldn't need to install malware on each device. But I seriously doubt they would stop there, beyond the obvious hacking tools (for example the ones the NSA lost incompetently like a toddlers gloves on a bus that caused the wanna cry epidemic), there is a new push to put the malware in dedicated hardware enclaves right on the chip. If you want an example of how social media and seemingly innocuous data c
              • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
                So the NSA/GCHQ backbone crypto keys got offered to the DEA, then the FBI. Now its down to state and city police. Then contractors got a support role.
                The network collects it all.
                • And in case that wasn't enough, now we have this little gem too [eff.org]. I get the distinct impression the easiest way to implement a dystopian future is through the boiled frog approach and the water is pretty nice and toasty about now.
    • ... but if you ain't made of paper nor trying to break into my house you have nothing to fear from me.

      My feelings exactly.

      And yet, though most of us are fairly reasonable, well behaved, and start off with good intentions, it's hard to predict the future ... I was thinking of a line from "Chinatown" [youtu.be].

  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Friday March 23, 2018 @08:47PM (#56316961)
    Sounds more like a prison than a rural high school. Is this what we've come to as a country? Easy availability of powerful guns, but not mental health therapy. Easy prescription of drugs that numb the mind, but strict penalties for drugs that expand the mind. Bullying and violence being legitimized and/or ignores. Long working hours, broken families, absentee parents. Media looking for more, more, and more ad revenue, even if it means glorifying heinous criminals, discussing their crimes non-stop for weeks, and encouraging copycats. Multiple studies have shown that things like suicide increase when other peoples' acts are publicized.
    • Sounds more like a prison than a rural high school. Is this what we've come to as a country?

      I give to you Prison Hill Elementary School [google.com]. Er, excuse me, Mission Hill. But we called it the first thing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Easy availability of powerful guns

      Whenever I see someone talking about AR-15's as "powerful guns", I realize that that person knows nothing about firearms.

      My .30-06 is a powerful gun. It'll drop pretty much any North American game animal in one shot. Which is a good thing, since it's a single shot rifle. Likewise .45-70 (replica of a 19th century firearm). Or my shotgun.

      My Mini-14 (functionally identical to an AR-15, but NOT an "assault weapon" since it was specifically exempted from being considered

      • Go back to high school or college physics. Power is energy per unit of time. Watts are joules per second. So an AR-15 with a large mag is a more powerful gun than your 30-06. It can deliver more energy to the target in a shorter time, even if that energy isn't in a single round. So yeah, it's more "powerful."
        • by cstacy ( 534252 )

          Go back to high school or college physics.

          Power is energy per unit of time. Watts are joules per second.

          So an AR-15 with a large mag is a more powerful gun than your 30-06. It can deliver more energy to the target in a shorter time, even if that energy isn't in a single round.

          So yeah, it's more "powerful."

          In practice, it doesn't usually deliver more than one round to a given target.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          So an 18-wheeler full of bullets is a more powerful gun than anything on the market? After all, it can deliver more energy through bullets to a location than any AR-15 or 30-06.

          Not to mention that "over time" for semi-automatics is a stupid idea. Is there a standard measure of units for triggers-pulled? Do all people pull triggers at the same rate? No? Pretty shitty science there, buddy.

          No one using the term "powerful" in gun legislation ever refers to the physics term.

    • Government schools are on the ropes. People of means home school and supplement with private schools. Much better experience. No distractions or weird institutional decisions...

  • by FeelGood314 ( 2516288 ) on Friday March 23, 2018 @08:55PM (#56316999)
    My kids' school has a locked front door and a fence around the school yard. They claim it's to prevent a kid being abducted but they will eventually open the door to everyone. So the extra security worthless, is a total pain and worse it means I have to walk my kids the long way round the parking lot. I'm in Canada. We average less than one abduction by a complete stranger every 3 years of a child not on a native reserve. It is so rare most Canadians know who Paul_Bernardo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] is. Contrast that risk with the risk of my kids being hit in the parking lot. It's thousands a year with about 20 fatalities of small children.

    This is a school where they should be good at math. The risks to small children are childhood leukemia and traffic accidents. As they get older its meningitis, traffic accidents and suicide. How about we spend 1/10 of the money we spend on Hollywood threats on real threats to my kids?
  • ... Cambridge Analytica.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday March 24, 2018 @03:50AM (#56317989)
    The U.S. causes of death statistics are readily available from the CDC website [cdc.gov]. For 2015, the leading causes of death for the 15-19 year old demographic were:
    • 3,919 deaths - Accidents (mostly automobile accidents and drug overdoses)
    • 2.061 deaths - Suicide
    • 1,587 deaths - Homicide (mostly outside school, and gang related)
    • 583 deaths - Malignant neoplasms (cancer)
    • 306 deaths - Heart disease
    • 195 deaths - Birth defects
    • 72 deaths - Influenza (the flu)
    • 63 deaths - Chronic lower respiratory diseases
    • 61 deaths - Cerebrovascular diseases
    • 52 deaths - Diabetes
    • 41 deaths - Complications from pregnancy and childbirth

    Where do school shootings rank? There have been about 250 deaths in school shootings over 18 years [washingtonpost.com], or about 14 per year.(and K-12, not just ages 15-19). Since there are approximately 51 million K-12 students in the U.S., a student's chances of being killed in a non-gang, non-suicide school shooting in any given year are about 1 in 3.6 million. You are roughly 3x more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 1.08 million).

    Like airliner crashes, school shootings are one of these extremely rare, statistically insignificant events whose emotional impact creates a large amount of social interest. This causes a disproportionate amount of press coverage, leading people to wildly overestimate the actual danger. If you really want to save high schoolers' lives, teach them to: drive safely and buckle their seat belts, not to abuse drugs, seek counseling for depression, stay out of gangs, use sunscreen, eat healthy and exercise, get the flu shot, don't smoke, don't eat too many sweets, and avoid teen pregnancy. Each of these will save many more lives than all the hand-wringing over school shootings, some (like suicide-prevention) around a hundred times more.

  • by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Saturday March 24, 2018 @03:59AM (#56318015)
    I'm 30 but still, all my posts are marked as non-public, friends-only. Any teenager who's too dumb to do the same to their account deserves to get "scanned" or whatever and basically have their privacy massively invaded. By the way, a lot of teenagers are smart enough to also not use their real names.
  • So, we are now going to require ID for this, but not to vote, right? Got it.

  • WTF? IF this is the future I want to die now.
  • Late, however it's almost here. Complete with a ministry of truth that people believe and is the lying news media.

    Far cry from when I was growing up. There was no police presence at the school. No panic button. Other than an occasional theft or assault they weren't needed. As a kid I also had guns in my bedroom. One of the was a high powered rifle. We learned marksmanship as kids. All of us did. We also learned respect. We had adults that for the most part told us the truth.

    Now we have political correctness

    • by j-beda ( 85386 )

      Everything was better back then.

      That has been true since Aristotle.

      Or not. I think we have a tendency to look at the past through rose-colored glasses.

      Domestic violence was higher, but we didn't talk about it.

      Drunk driving was higher, but we didn't talk about it.

      There were fewer school shootings, but far from zero: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      There were less opportunities for women or minorities.

      All in all, while there have been many changes in society that might not seem positive, there have also been

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