Spy software company apologises to Raza Nadim over “extremist” complaint

Software company Impero has apologised to MPACUK’s Raza Nadim after it was revealed that an online search of his name could flag up schoolchildren as potential terrorists.

Impero has developed student-monitoring software which highlights if children are at risk of “radicalisation” based on their online activity.

The software, which is intended for use in UK schools, has a “radicalisation keywords” library which has been developed to help schools comply with new duties requiring them to monitor children for “extremism”, as part of the government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy.

The keywords list consists of more than 1,000 trigger terms including “apostate”, “jihadi” and “Islamism”, and accompanying definitions.

In an online statement Impero said: “We deeply regret any offence caused to Mr Nadim by one of our staff members mentioning him personally during a talk on e-safety. We have taken steps to ensure we do not make a similar mistake again, and will be contacting Mr Nadim directly to apologise to him

Raza Nadim of MPACUK
Raza Nadim of MPACUK

“We are constantly updating and modifying our keyword libraries and appreciate the feedback we receive. Our radicalisation software remains in pilot phase and will not be released without further significant consultation.”

Reacting to the news, Mr Nadim said that he felt vindicated after supporters lobbied Impero.

“A big thank you to all those that have messaged me and the MPACUK team with words of support (and donated) and/or who joined the campaigned, or at the very least made others aware so they would act,” he said.

“We have sent a strong message to Quilliam and others involved in the Islamophobia Industry that we will not tolerate being smeared as extremists or being silenced. The more we act in an organised way we can, insha’allah (God Willing), put an end to the hate our people face.”

Quilliam Foundation

In June it was reported that the so-called “anti-extremism think-tank” Quilliam Foundation had developed a new software in partnership with Impero that would help teachers spy on school kids’ potentially “extremist online activity.”

Quilliam Foundation, which is headed by Maajid Nawaz, is widely viewed within the Muslim community as an organisation which promotes Islamophobia and neocon values under the guise of fighting extremism.

Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation Pic: BBC
Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation Pic: BBC

Jonathan Russell, political liaison officer at Quilliam Foundation, told the BBC at the time: “The internet has made it easy for young people to access extreme or radical material. While measures such as the UK government’s Prevent Strategy already existed, it’s now clear that more needs to be done to counter radicalisation early on.

“Protecting young people from the dangers of radicalisation requires positive online counter-extremism, and empowering teachers with technology like Impero’s keyword library is an important part of this process.”

The Counter Terrorism and Security Act, which became law in February, puts a responsibility on schools to prevent youngsters falling into the clutches of extremist groups. And Prime Minister David Cameron says schools must also actively promote “British values” and will be judged by the schools’ watchdog Ofsted on how well they teach them.

But the National Union of Teachers has expressed fears this could lead to debate on contentious issues being shut down.

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