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The Trevor Project breaks up with student monitoring software after online backlash

The Trevor Project breaks up with student monitoring software after online backlash

The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides crisis assistance to LGBTQ-plus youth, will cut ties with student-focused monitoring software company Gaggle, as the partnership sparked backlash from activists.

According to a report from The74, the organization began listing Gaggle as a "corporate partner" on its website in May, and has since confirmed donations of $25,000. Gaggle still lists The Trevor Project as a resource for LGBTQ students in several areas of its website.

Gaggle builds and markets software products for reviewing students' online behavior in school-issued accounts, and uses machine learning technology to flag "related content" for their districts. According to Gaggle's website, the items its products can monitor include everything from email subject lines and attachments to items shared through Google Drive and OneDrive, as well as messages and discussion posts in Canvas .

Previous reporting has raised concerns about keywords that Gaggle might flag. The software has been accused of labeling sexual orientation-related words, including "gay" and "lesbian," as harmful material and excluding LGBTQ students.

Gaggle did not respond to a request for comment as of press time, but told 74 that he saw the partnership "as a learning opportunity."

As soon as The 74's report started doing the rounds online, the reaction intensified. A barrage of Twitter users denounced the partnership, with some declaring that they have canceled their recurring donations.

Soon after the report was published on Friday, Fight for the Future director Evan Greer called on the organization to "return the donation, remove Gaggle from its website, and apologise."

“In states like Texas, law enforcement can easily direct a school district to use Gaggle to monitor student communications for LGBTQ+ or trans related content and then use it to investigate and prosecute those families. Could use. Those just trying to love their kids," Greer tweeted in a widely shared source condemning the partnership. "Do better, @TrevorProject."

Just hours after the backlash began, The Trevor Project announced in a tweet that it would end its "engagement" with Gaggle and return her $25,000 donation.

“Our philosophy is that having a seat at the table helps us to positively influence how companies engage with LGBTQ young people, and we initially agreed to work with Gaggle as we worked with LGBTQ students. an opportunity to make a meaningful impact to better protect the organization," tweeted Sept. 30. "We hear and understand the concerns, and we look forward to working with schools and institutions to ensure so that they are properly supporting LGBTQ youth and their mental health. ,

Reached for comment, Trevor Project spokesman Jackson Budinger referred The Verge to the organization's tweet. Budinger also clarified that the Trevor Project did not use Gaggle's software.

Gaggle and its competitors have advocated for privacy several times in recent months. A similar surveillance service, Social Sentinel, came under scrutiny in the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting earlier this year, when The Dallas Morning News reported it had been contracted with the district.

Gaggle was also one of the four companies in Massachusetts Sense. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey addressed in an open letter this summer that their data could penalize students who discover abortions. "As abortion restrictions and restrictions apply nationwide, we are concerned that your products may be used to criminalize or punish students seeking information related to abortion services," the senators wrote.

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