US school district uses artificial intelligence to ban books inappropriate for children

The Mason City School Board in the US state of Iowa has started using artificial intelligence technology to create lists of potentially banned books in local libraries ahead of the new school year, writes Engadget.

The action comes after the state’s governor, Kim Reynolds, signed a bill that makes changes to Iowa’s curriculum. Among other things, it defines what books can be available in school libraries and classrooms.

For example, the document requires that book titles be “age appropriate” and not contain “descriptions or visual depictions of sexual intercourse. But ensuring that every book in the district’s archives complied with these rules became a huge undertaking.

“Our classroom and school libraries have vast collections, consisting of texts purchased, donated, and found,” Bridgette Exman, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Mason City Community School District, said in a statement. “It is simply not feasible to read every book and filter for these new requirements.”

The school district now uses AI to analyze suspicious texts for prohibited ideas and descriptions, as there are too many book titles for human reviewers to cover on their own.

“Frankly, we have more important things to do than spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to protect kids from books,” Exman told PopSci in an interview. “At the same time, we do have a legal and ethical obligation to comply with the law. Our goal here really is a defensible process.”

So far, the AI has marked 19 books for removal.

Earlier, it was reported that more than 8500 authors of fiction, nonfiction and poetry accuse the tech companies behind major language models such as ChatGPT, Bard, LLaMa and others of using their works without permission or compensation.