New software can help prevent school shootings


The Mirror

School shootings have become a rising issue in the United States, but a new software called Social Sentinel may be able to put a stop to it.

The software works by scanning social media looking for any trigger words that may suggest the motive to want to harm the school or someone in the school. If a trigger word is found, the software alerts someone in the administrative department explains Cable News Network (CNN).

Gary Margolis is the creator and chief executive officer of the Social Sentinel program according to National Public Radio (NPR). “We are a home alarm system, so to speak, for social media,” stated Margolis.

This software was developed after a recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where the shooter had expressed his plans on social media, but the information had never reached the FBI.  The shooting could have been prevented if there had been a way to get the information faster and that’s how the idea for Social Sentinel came about.

The Social Sentinel website claims that one of the program’s features is that information is sent in near-real time. This means that information can be sent out faster to prevent tragedies such as the shooting at Douglas.

Margolis pointed out that about one billion posts are scanned every day looking for certain trigger words and there are over 450,000 trigger words that the program is looking for when scanning social media.

The trigger words were mostly determined by looking at words that past shooters used to express their violent feelings, explained Margolis during an interview with CNN.

CNN also described how the software program can help students who are posting thoughts of self-harm. The program, for example, can find the word “kill” and if a student says “kill myself” or anything similar to that it will set off an alert. Finding this information can help to intervene and aid the student.

Shawsheen Technological High School in Billerica, Massachusetts is one of the schools that have started using the Social Sentinel program. According to NPR, the school pays about 10,000 a year for this program.

Although a number of schools use Social Sentinel there are other school districts that are finding and creating their own software programs, one of them being Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH). Chris Cuomo, a SPASH technology support staff member, said the school is currently working on coming up with software that will be able to detect threats similar to how Social Sentinel works.

”You don’t know if it will be effective until after you test it,” Cuomo said.