The state of Maryland is partnering with Facebook under a new cyberbullying law to implement a system to educate kids about online bullying and work out a system to alert educators when bullying occurs.
The pilot project should help Facebook readily respond to content-removal requests from Maryland school officials – a measure that many say amounts to censorship.
The program will target people who are “not committing a crime… We’re not going to go after you, but we are going to take down the language off of Facebook, because there’s no redeeming societal value and it’s clearly hurting somebody,” Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler told local radio station WTOP.
The libertarian think tank the CATO Institute is calling the measure a “takedown hotline for public school officials” claiming whatever school officials deem as offensive or without societal value will be removed.
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New York City criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield told the Wall Street Journal that partnership between a state and a private institute like Facebook could cast a wider net of censorship.
Facebook, as a private company, can decide to remove anything it wants from its website. But when those decisions are being made by government employees it becomes a First Amendment issue, Greenfield said.
Having school officials dictate social media could also be seen as an overextension of power.
Requests to remove content could “institutionalize a process where the teachers appear capable of making a determination on the value of speech outside the realm of school,” Greenfield said.
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“Facebook continues to look for ways to help parents, teens and educators better understand the safety features built into our service,” said Facebook spokesperson Brooke Oberwetter in a statement.
Facebook is likely trying to get ahead of other telecom companies offers programs to help schools monitor the social media activity of students.
In September, California’s Glendale School District announced it is paying $40,500 a year to Geo Listening to monitor the social media activity of middle and high school students.