High-tech tool to help prevent student suicide is being used to spy on protestors, grantee finds

For a few thousand dollars a year, a high-tech artificial intelligence system offers colleges a way to scan students’ social media posts to look for students at risk of harming themselves. The tool, Social Sentinel (now called Navigate360 Detect), claims that it could help save lives. In an investigation by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism for the Dallas Morning News, reporters Arijit Sen and Dereka K. Bennett found that the software was not helpful in identifying students with mental health issues – but that several colleges had used the software to monitor student dissidents. A least 37 colleges since 2015 have used public funds to pay for the service. With a grant from the Fund, Sen and Bennett examined emails, contracts and marketing material from colleges around the country, and spoke to school officials, campus police, activists and experts.