Virginia School District Seeks Social Media Surveillance System To Combat Hate Speech

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Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is looking to implement surveillance and intelligence-gathering service to monitor student, parent, and teacher social media accounts for “hate speech” and “social media threats.”

According to documents obtained from Parents Defending Education, FCPS wants to reserve $200,000 to fund a service that “monitor social network threats, harassment and hate speech” through “active listening,” “deep web and dark sources not visible through traditional search engines” and “Open Source Intelligence,” according to a request for proposals.

FCPS will use these tools to begin data collection to “classify usernames, email addresses [sic] websites, etc.” and to “visually identify relationships between persons” to “detect [and] assist deter any negative consequences from social media that may be directed at racial groups, students or teachers within FCPS.”

The surveillance system can also save search queries, set alerts for the active listener, and sets “no limits” on data storage.

This comes after the FCPS was heavily criticized online for a variety of actions including providing phonographic and sexual materials to students and playing “privilege Bingo” in which they classified themselves as a “military child” and thus possessed privilege.

PDE reports that FCPS “tracked and responded to comments about the ‘privilege” bingo card, and then posted comments to the tweets.

FCPS parents claim this is a serious violation of the First Amendment, particularly since bullying, harassment, and hate speech are not defined by their school district.