Mason City Schools Use AI to Find Sexual Content in Their Books

At least one Iowa school district has turned to using artificial intelligence to try and stay in compliance with a new state law on what constitutes age-appropriate books in school libraries. Bridgette Exman, assistant superintendent in Mason City, says Iowa legislators are requiring public schools to remove all books that have “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act,” but it excludes religious texts. Exman says they’re trying to follow the letter of the law as best as they can.

Exman says she went through a list of commonly-challenged books and found 19 in Mason City’s middle and high school libraries. She put those titles through Chat-GPT, an online artificial intelligence tool, and asked if the book contained a description of a sex act.

Educators statewide are still waiting for guidance on what books need to be removed from the shelves, but with school starting next week for many students, Exman says they wanted to do something as fast as possible. She says it was a quick, effective way to make sure the school is following the law while also allowing educators to focus on the start of the new school year.

Exman says parents have always had the ability to review books or a curriculum, but she says in the last 20 years, they have never seen a formal challenge.


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