Everyone's An Agent: UK Company Provides Spy Software To Teachers To Weed Out Child Terrorists

from the no-no-no dept

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.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Everyone's An Agent: UK Company Provides Spy Software To Teachers To Weed Out Child Terrorists”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Increase in Radicalized Children?

Assuming those instances are even real – I would suggest that they are only of “general concern” to you because “your” particularly rancid oligarch/state controlled media have made them so. How many traffic deaths this year? How many domestic violence deaths? Are these things of general concern too?

Ninja (profile) says:

to try to weed out the eventually-maybe-might-be-radicalized

First thing to be noted here is that the West itself has turned into radicalization against anything that doesn’t conform to the ‘standard’. This is just one of the many examples out there.

In the name of the ever sanctified ‘perfect security’ we are waging a ‘jihad’ against anything and everything we fear (I know the term doesn’t mean what it’s used for). Unfortunately the rope snaps to the weakest end and our kids can’t do a thing to defend themselves.

sigalrm (profile) says:

Re: Re: Time for a little NSA Haiku

“Your statement implies that surveillance is currently useful, when pretty much all evidence currently shows that its already pretty useless.”

words like “useless” and “failed” are entirely dependent on a projects success criteria. And a project can have multiple success criteria.

Granted, the “obvious” success criteria is “find terrorists”. But there are other, not quite so obvious potential success criteria here. Examples include, but aren’t limited to:

  • distraction (“hey everyone, look over here at this useless program”)
  • indoctrination – “in 5 years, people will be used to X, then we can implement Y”
  • funding support – “X isn’t useful today, but will be given another $Y”
  • misdirection – “we’ve told the terrorists we found the location to their secret base via correlation of landmarks with satellite footage. Lets hope they don’t figure out to turn off the location function on their smartphone camera and/or figure out how to strip exif data out of images.”
  • Anonymous Coward says:

    Re: Re: Re: NetNanny and the like

    I’m sorry but software, installed voluntarily by the internet user/home owner and restrict what your kid can do on the internet is as old as when I got online or maybe even older (got it in october ’97, wasn’t AOL, as AOL hadn’t attempted their grab in Canada, they tried so later, but cable companies were really quick as to establish themselves as ISP’s too, got my first cable modem in december 1998, couldn’t stand the 33.6 slowness and the fact that my dad wouldn’t set the modem so it didn’t disconnect when a call came in and I was too young to know how to go past this stuff.

    But yeah, why not encourage people at using such kind of softwares and not have it done at the ISP (in this case, goddamn primary school teacher)’s level. Another card from the house of cards relating to the country which is the most surveilled (fuck you firefox that’s a word) country in the world, yeah, more than North Korea, the people who get purged in North Korea or sent to camps if they continue doing infractions have bad things happen to them when the apartment block Matron where everyone in that a certain zone has to go and tell if they saw anyone doing some illegal stuff done in their area of control. That book from an-ex USSR now Russian guy who wrote a very very interesting book about how life was in NK before the famine and how Kim Il-Sung must have been poisoned for accepting Jimmy Carter’s plan for coodinated disarmament But also a serie of scenarios as to how NK will fall (it is inevitable, it’s a matter of when how smooth or horrible or in the middle it can be). The Russian guy, I forgot the name of the book and I had it epub format before…its probably on one of my hard drives that need circuit board change, knows a lot about North Korea because he was an exchange student there in the 70’s and 80’s and from what I know, most people who were reduced to eating insects and such was because of the 1993-1999 famine, before that they managed ok, but with Russia cutting all funds, it had only China left as an ally and they couldn’t do the “well, i’ll ask the Russians instead or the opposite when negotiating for anything between NK and these 2 superpowers.

    All this to say, yeah UK is more a of fascist state than NK now. Remember the TODDLER terrorist screening from some months ago? They’re going insane over there, I don’t know why, it must explain why most british people I ever interacted with online are insanely annoying and various other epithets that are less polite.

    Anonymous Coward says:

    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.

    Why do you think the courts have been so willing to let things be done to kids which would be oppressive and unconstitutional if applied to adults? Get them used to it at a young age, and when they grow up they’ll be fine with it.

    Edward Teach says:

    Isn't this dumber than it first looks?

    pupils use specific terrorism-related terms or phrases or visit extremist websites on school computers, laptops or tablets.

    Doesn’t that seem to mean they’re just using keyword matching and blacklists to detect “radicalization” (whatever that is, other than “Very Bad Indeed”)?

    Do the purveyors of this… software honestly believe that someone gets “radicalized” via certain keywords? I would have thought that “radicalization” would be a far more subtle process than that.

    On the flip side, do the purveyors of this… software honestly believe that reading or viewing particular keywords will de-radicalize someone? I guess this would explain the insanity of reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” in a religious manner every day.

    Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:


    It sure seems as if the real message is ‘if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist’. When people are in their formative years (kids) their curiosity naturally leads to things they hear about, but don’t know about. Take the word jihad for example. Why ‘wouldn’t’ a kid upon hearing that word for the first time NOT go and see what it means, even from a variety of sources? This would then get them tagged for the multiple uses of the word jihad, and assumed to be radicalized. The government appears to wish any mention of ‘bad’ things to just go away so that people don’t learn about them.

    I would think a much better way of reducing ‘radicalization’ would be to proactively discuss, at increasingly complex levels as the student grow older, the concepts that cause people to be intolerant of others, rather than expressing intolerance in the most arbitrary way possible.

    Claire Rand says:

    Follow the money

    Someone has seen a wonderful chance to make some squids here, have a half hearted program that kids will be able to evade, similar to pretty much any web censorship software thats current used…

    Slap “TERRORISTS!!!!” on it and then flog it to education authorities..

    Someone is being silly here, but its not the ones flogging the dead horse but perhaps the ones who are convinced that if they flog enough dead horses they will teach one to sing.

    or something.

    Would expect half the terms or conditions such stuff looks for to have more to do with protests than terrorists, UK, thoughtcrime is alve and well.

    Uriel-238 (profile) says:

    Children can be terrorists?

    I thought children could be utilized by terrorists (which is regarded as abuse, when it comes from guardians who involve children in criminal activity). But I’d think they’re too young and their characters undeveloped to take responsibility for their own radicalization.

    Then again, here in the US, when a child engages in unwanted violence (e.g. pretending a banana or a poptart is a firearm) they get suspended rather than a teacher saying “Stop it! That kind of play distresses me.” (Which gets pretty good results.)

    Anonymous Coward says:

    There are many kinds of evil.

    One of the worst kinds are those who would destroy a good society by breeding fear into every aspect of our lives in order to promote themselves and their agenda.
    For me this describes our current situation in many so called enlightened and free countries.
    Some people thrive on fear and intolerance and they gleefully spread it, rubbing their hands because they gain while the rest loose.
    It is slow going, but with enough patience and persistence they will push for more and more securities in order to fight the new “scary” thing. The problem is that what is acceptable today might be scary tomorrow and as we get more and more safe, escalation is all but impossible to avoid.

    Anonymous Coward says:

    What about the teachers?

    It seems to me that a “radicalized” teacher is a much, much bigger threat than a child. So, if there is nothing wrong with monitoring people’s online activity for “potentially extremist activity” patterns, then they should start with the teachers and administrators first. Therefore, teachers and administrators should have all of online activities monitored at all times. And because more eyes are better at spotting subtle patterns, the logs should all be publicly posted where concerned parents and members of the public can monitor and review them.

    How does that sound?

    DigDug says:

    Re: What about the teachers?

    sounds pretty pathetic actually.

    The problem is the government, not the teachers or students.

    Stop spying on your citizens. Stop killing people that disagree with the treasonous / traitorous activities of their government.

    Stop thinking that they are above the laws of their nations.

    Stop thinking that the people will put up with anything as long as it’s “for the war on terror” or “think of the children”. Right now, the best thing we could do for our children would be to throw off the yoke of the current governments and start over fresh. Go back to the basics that clearly state that the government is there for the people, under the control OF the people and is arranged BY the people.

    In the United States, I’d say we need a continental congress to throw out the entire current executive branch, scrub all of the graft, greed and corruption in the legislative branch, and remove the foggy lenses from the judicial branch so that they can clearly READ the laws they are there to enforce, not use whatever inane drivel the alphabet organizations give them.

    The bill of rights is pretty damned self explanatory and isn’t up to interpretation. It’s black and white, and the current activities of the U.S. Government are completely unconstitutional, illegal and are the treasonous actions of the executive branch traitors to this country.

    Anonymous Coward says:

    Re: Re: What about the teachers?

    The problem is the government, not the teachers or students.

    Then maybe the government officials supporting this kind of stuff should be the first. Put cameras throughout their homes. Make them wear microphones that record every word they say and GPS ankle bracelets that track their moves. And then make it all publicly available so that we can keep an eye on them.

    GEMont (profile) says:

    Re: Re: What about the teachers?

    Actually, 9/11 probably allowed the USG to “revisit” the old Bill of Rights, and re-interpret it alongside (The Old CONstitution), because…….. “terrorists!!!!!”

    I would assume that not only is a Continental Congress no longer a possibility under the new William of Rights, but is probably illegal under (The New PROstitution) and legally considered to be treasonous activity.

    DigDug says:


    If it weren’t for all of the supposedly “Free World” Governments turning into terrorist organizations, there wouldn’t be any “student radicalization”.

    9/11 and other radical terrorist attacks gave the governments of the free world countries the opening they’ve been salivating over for decades. So of course they took it for an opening and have been terrorizing their citizens and destroying the fundamental human rights ever since.

    Pissed off adults talking about the inhumane and illegal antics of their governments are overheard by their children, and *gasp* they talk about it at school.

    The solution isn’t more illegal monitoring and witch-hunt reporting.

    The solution is to put the genie back in the bottle or destroy the genie and start over.

    The formerly free world countries are cruising for a bruising. At some point, they will take that one step too far and that will be it. The people will take Thomas Jefferson’s advice and it will be game over for the current political structures in these nations.

    Anonymous Coward says:

    Such a radical idea that little Timmy can get a surprise visit by the man in paramilitary uniforms and a bag over his head enroute to a interrogation for searching how a genderswapped Yoda would be named.
    Thats great fun for everyone.

    Who would think of sending “radical” words over a messenger across school to get some attention for everyone.

    And i guess it will soon adapt to the common suspiciousness ruling, if you type yoda you are suspicious and if you refrain from writing it you are suspicious too.

    Radicalizing/idiolizing kids at school? First thing on my mind is the american daily pledge of allegiance (minus the salute since the 50s).

    Wendy Cockcroft says:

    Are you sitting comfortably, children? Then we’ll begin.

    Once upon a time, there was a security company called “Impero” which had friends in the government of a country called Great Britain. Now the British were very frightened of people called “Terrorists,” some of whom were very naughty and did awful things like blowing things up and chopping people’s heads off.

    While the possibility of having such a thing happen to ordinary British people was very small, many newspapers and and companies in the security and defence industries were making a great deal of money by frightening people, then promising to provide the means to protect them. Even the politicians got in on the act, each one falling over themselves to promise security and freedom if the British people would only accept being watched from CCTV cameras when they went outside, or being watched on their computers and mobile phones if they went online or made a call.

    One day, Impero Software’s CEO had a great idea. “The British people are frightened of their neighbours but there’s one group of people they’re not scared of at all,” he told the board of directors. “School children.”

    The thump of jaws dropping rang around the room. Each of the directors looked at each other, then back at their CEO.

    “Do you know they can be radicalised while browsing the internet?” he continued. “Luckily, we have just the product to solve the problem. We’ll be selling it to all the schools in the land and ask the teachers to use it to spot terrorist children.”

    One by one the board of directors stood up to clap and cheer for their clever CEO.

    “What a clever man you are!” they said. “We’ll never have to worry about going to food banks like the other British people ask long as we make sure that they always have something to be frightened of.”

    The CEO laughed and waited for them to sit back down so they could brainstorm on what else they could persuade the British people to be frightened of.

    The End.

    GEMont (profile) says:

    Leaders In Their Field

    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.

    And why would they not??

    After all, Terrorism has tripled/quadrupled the amount of tax payer money that politicians can throw into that hole in the ocean – read: bounce back into their own pockets.

    Next to the War on Drugs, the War on Terror has proven to every corrupt politician on earth that a phony War-On-Something can make you rich nearly overnight.

    And because muslims wear easily-identifiable costumes, they make the perfect “bad-guys” for Authority worshiping TV-trained US citizens to recognize right away as the Official Evil Agents of Satan, and very effectively replace the now defunct Murderous Russian Boogeymen and the test-run Mexican Drug-Lord Desperados.

    Once again, America leads the way in the world of innovative mass exploitation and social engineering, and the rest of the world’s crooks simply follow the money trail.

    Add Your Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

    Comment Options:

    Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

    What's this?

    Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

    Follow Techdirt

    Techdirt Daily Newsletter

    Techdirt Deals
    Techdirt Insider Discord
    The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...