Shocking Report from Big Brother Watch Reveals How ‘Counter-Extremism’ Policies Push UK Schools To Use Software to Monitor Pupils
British civil liberties and privacy advocacy group, Big Brother Watch, has published a startling report this week detailing the wide spread extent of computer surveillance within the UK school system. 44% of the 1,420 Secondary schools contacted by Big Brother Watch replied and 70% of those which replied, reported using some form of Classroom Management Software. Classroom Management Software can be used to monitor the screens of an entire class, monitor pupil’s internet activity in real time or access their browser history and monitor and record key keystrokes including for ‘flagged words’, signs of ‘radicalisation’ or ‘extremism’. Among the key findings within the report entitled, “Classroom Management Software – Another Brick in the Wall? How schools use software to monitor pupils”, are that
1. Classroom Management Software has been installed on 821,386 computers, laptops, tablets or mobile phones;
a. (99.8%) of which are school owned devices and 0.2% of which belong to pupils.
2. 83% of schools “failed to give any information beyond the fact that students may be monitored when using computers”
3. 149 out of 1,000 (15%) schools provided Acceptable Use Policies and;
a. 26 provided detailed information about the type of CMS and how it was used,
b. 123 (83%) failed to give any information at all beyond the fact that students may be monitored when using computers.
While use of the Classroom Management Software is voluntary, the report concluded that schools;
“may be encouraged to purchase the software in order to adhere to their obligations under the Government’s PREVENT [‘counter-radicalisation’/‘counter-extremism’] Strategy or as a way of following the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance published by the Government in September 2016.” [hyperlinks added]
The guidance also states that, “it is essential that children are safeguarded from potentially harmful and inappropriate online material” and that “children are safe from terrorist material”, other guidance issued by the government repeat the same messages about radicalisation, extremism and how the duty to have “due regard” to guard against people being drawn into extremism is now a statutory duty.
The foundational underpinnings of the UK (and US/French/Canadian/et al.) government’s theory of radicalisation and PREVENT Strategy has been repeatedly attacked as baseless, unscientific, counter-productive and chilling speech – in particular speech which is critical of government policies. It has also been accused of institutionalising a culture of spying and fear within Muslim communities which are being criminalising. Most recently the theories of radicalisation were challenged in a UK Foreign Affairs Parliamentary report and in an independent extensive review published this October by the Open Society Justice Initiative.
The Henry Jackson Society, a UK based neoconservative think tank with strong ties to Conservative MPs and some Labour MPs, strongly supports the PREVENT strategy and labels as potential ‘extremists’ those who oppose it. The UK government under Theresa May (who has long supported ‘anti-radicalisation’ and ‘anti-extremism’ laws) has doubled down on these policies – since they were expanded in 2009 under the New Labour government – making them mandatory for all public bodies, within Scotland, England and Wales. Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party calling for the strategy to be reformed, the UK government has shown no intention of shifting away from current policy.
As the UK government seeks to expand the reach of programs like the PREVENT, it is likely the use of monitoring and surveillance software within the education system and public organisations generally, will continue to rise.
Anti-Trump Protests Continue Throughout the US
Anti-Trump protests continued for a third night in cities throughout the US. Chants of “Not my President!” could be heard in many cities, icnluding New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, DC. Police arrested several protesters in various cities. The protesters objected to Donald Trump’s racism and sexism and what it would mean for women and minorities in the US. Trump initially reacted by tweeting that the media are inciting protests. Protest organizers say that they are planning more activities in the coming days and weeks.
Potential Trump Cabinet Mostly DC and Big Business Insiders
Despite Trump’s recent promise to “drain the swamp” and to introduce a wide variety of strict regulations on the revolving door between lobbyists and government officials, Trump’s first order of business has been to put lobbyists in charge of his presidential transition. While his top advisors include former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Trump has hired lobbyists to run the lower-level appointments for the different departments of the government, according to an analysis conducted by CNN. Another player that is enjoying a decisive role in the transition is the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Sanders Issues Statement on Trump Election
Senator Bernie Sanders released a statement Wednesday, promising to “work with” Trump, to the degree he “is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country.” However, Sanders also said, “To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”
Brazilian Social Movements Launch Campaign to Defend Former President Lula from Corruption Allegations
Brazilian labor unions and social movements have agreed on a plan to oppose the government of Michel Temer and to defend former president Lula da Silva from persecution. The plan, “A Just Brazil for All and for Lula”, includes country-wide protests on Friday, November 11. One of the main issues that the organizations are opposing is the conservative government’s efforts to freeze social investment over the next 20 years. Former president Lula remains Brazil’s most popular president, but is facing highly politicized accusations of having been involved in corruption. Similarly, one of the country’s largest social movements, the Landless Workers Movement, or MST, is facing government efforts to criminalize its activities in defense of land reform. Last week the government arrested eight MST leaders accusing them of having committed a wide variety of crimes, which they strongly deny. Movements in Brazil see the Temer government as illegitimate because it came to power by removing President Rousseff on spurious charges of having committed administrative irregularities.
Haiti Faces Food Crisis According to Interim President
Haiti is facing a serious crisis of malnutrition and food shortages, according to the country’s interim president, Jocelerme Privert. The crisis was set off by Hurricane Mitch, a category 4 storm, which devastated Haiti on October 4. Over 140,000 Haitians are now living in temporary shelters after their homes were destroyed. The president also says that the reconstruction costs are as high as the government’s entire annual budget and that the country does not have any funds to replant crops that were destroyed by the hurricane. The storm came as Haiti was emerging from a three-year drought and the 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake, which already contributed to widespread malnutrition. The total damage caused by Hurricane Mitch is estimated at $2 billion, and the UN has pledged to raise $120 million for rebuilding, but so far only $45 million come in.