New Mass Shooting Prevention Bill Will Use 'Anti-Terrorism' Methods To Ramp Up Surveillance Of Students

from the not-quite-the-civics-lesson-schools-had-in-mind dept

The federal government still doesn't have any great ideas on how to head off future school shootings. But it does have some ideas. Some ideas are better than none when calls to "do something" abound. Something is indeed in the works. Unfortunately, the solution being offered just opens up students to increased surveillance, on and off campus.

You already know we're headed to a darker place when the head of the DOJ is touting anti-terrorism tactics as a solution.

As America grapples with the crisis, [Attorney General William] Barr wrote in a letter to federal and local law enforcement officials that it was “critically important ... that we learn from our experiences over the last two decades fighting terrorism and violent crime and that we apply those lessons to hone an efficient, effective and programmatic strategy to disrupt individuals who are mobilizing towards violence, by all lawful means.”

Barr was speaking more broadly of mass shooters, but school shooters are also mass shooters, which means the "individuals" being "disrupted" will sometimes be school students.

Expanded surveillance of school students would be the result of Sen. John Cornyn's RESPONSE Act. (Expanded surveillance of everyone would also be the result of the proposed bill.) There are some helpful aspects to the proposed law, like increasing access to mental health treatment and the hiring of additional mental health professionals to handle the uptick in access.

But the law would also authorize less helpful things, like expedited death penalties and nudging ISPs towards monitoring their customers' internet use.

Encouraging Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to Better Collaborate with Law Enforcement to Prevent Mass Shootings —Clarifies that internet service providers and online platforms have the authority to share information with law enforcement concerning acts of mass violence, hate crimes, or domestic terrorism.

The bill doesn't demand increased monitoring. It just suggests law enforcement will be expected a bit more proactivity from service providers.

The bill also suggests doing more of what hasn't been proven to be useful, like the periodic traumatization of staff and students with active shooter drills.

But it's really about the surveillance. As The Guardian reports, schools are already engaged in plenty of student surveillance. Adding students to the "possible mass shooter" pool would just put existing systems on PEDs.

There is still no research evidence that demonstrates whether or not online monitoring of schoolchildren actually works to prevent violence.

Despite this, new legislation introduced Wednesday by Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican and longtime ally of the National Rifle Association (NRA), would update the Children’s Internet Protection Act to mandate that public schools adopt “a technology protection measure that detects online activities of minors who are at risk of committing self-harm or extreme violence against others”.

That mandate isn't going to improve the faulty AI and algorithms already in place. It will increase their use, but it won't make systems prone to false positives any more reliable. Children will become haystacks sifted and sorted by companies like Gaggle. Students will spend more time talking to law enforcement about innocuous posts flagged as suspicious because they contain certain words.

Cornyn's mass shooting plan piggybacks on a vague law that demands schools monitor students online activities. What that covers has never been clearly defined. A do-almost-nothing law that demands increased surveillance will only make existing problems worse. No price is too high to pay for school safety, especially when the price is going to be paid by students.

Filed Under: gun control, john conryn, school shootings, shootings, students, surveillance, surveillance state, terrorism, william barr


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2019 @ 9:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Assault weapons already have a very high bar to acquisition. They're not banned but it's not at all easy to acquire one.

    The AR-15 and others like it are not, however, assault weapons. They may resemble assault weapons but they fire only one shot per trigger pull and those shots are lower caliber and less powerful than many rifles you'd call hunting rifles.

    Get rid of bump stocks and "gatling triggers", sure. Those serve no real purpose other than to convert any semi-automatic rifle into a fully automatic rifle with terrible accuracy. The only reason those exist is to spray more lead downrange faster, i.e. "spray and pray".

    If the anti-gun community would study up a bit and actually understand what these things are and how they work they could construct much more useful legislation that the pro-gun community would likely even go along with. The current approach to try to outright ban things that aren't at all what the anti-gunners claim them to be and that won't make any material difference at all is never going to succeed.


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