An investigation by Vice News’ Motherboard found that surveillance software used by schools in an effort to “protect children” isn’t always doing just that. One software, provided by Atlanta-based company Bark, was designed to monitor what children type, read, and do with their devices. However, it managed to flag only two emails out of 65 that mentioned the names of white supremacist groups and groups that advocated for LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, and gun control, according to the outlet. The flagged emails contained the words “porn,” and “Everytown for Gun Safety.” In response to the outlet’s finding, Bark CEO Brian Bason said the emails containing white supremacist groups “were correctly not flagged because...there was no context in the messages–had your messages included hate speech or grooming of the child, I am confident it would have been flagged.” Bark has reportedly “protected” over 5 million children, according to the company.
The second software, Securly, blocked at least 60 websites that contained valuable information about LGBTQ+ health resources and information about sexual health, according to the outlet. “I just imagine a kid in middle school who is questioning their sexuality or just wants information and the big thing pops up that says ‘this website is blocked’ and the reason is pornography,” said Ezra, a student who had the software installed on his computer. Mike Jolley, who works at Securly, said that the software has been reprogrammed to not automatically block a website because it contains a word like “gay” or “lesbian.” Additionally, Securly has since unblocked many of the websites that were previously deemed inappropriate, according to Vice News.