Florida database to combine social media, law enforcement, social services records
- Florida authorities will create a database that combines law enforcement and social services records with information gleaned from social media accounts as part of an effort to prevent school shootings, Education Week reports.
- The provision was part of a law passed in March following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 17 people were killed. Officials say there were many warning signs in the social media posts of Nikolas Cruz, the former student at the school who confessed to the shooting.
- Concerns over such monitoring, however, include who will have access to the data, how it will be used, and that it might cast suspicion on students that do not pose a threat.
A recent report from the RAND Corp. provides some guidance to district leaders on how law enforcement might use social media to gain clues about students intending harm to themselves or others. Based on a 2017 panel convened by the National Institute of Justice, the report focuses mostly on examples from organized crime and gang activity, but lead author John Hollywood said in an email that the “business cases” presented could apply to preventing school violence, as well.
The researchers discuss that social media analysis is often used in combination with social network analysis, which seeks to identify those who might be at the center of a criminal network. “As the use of social media platforms has become almost ubiquitous in modern society, including among offenders and organized crime networks, social media is becoming a key source of information about both threatened and actual criminal activity,” they write.
The report, however, also notes that protections need to be in place to keep law enforcement from profiling individuals based solely, for example, on who they follow or who follows them on social media. Social media monitoring has also been a topic raised during the Federal Commission on School Safety’s listening sessions. At a June session, the Future of Privacy Forum's Amelia Vance said that programs and technology that monitor students’ online activity “should be targeted at the most serious threats."
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