An Iowa school district is using ChatGPT to decide which books to ban

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In response to recently enacted state legislation in Iowa, administrators are removing banned books from Mason City school libraries, and officials are using ChatGPT to help them pick the books, according to The Gazette and Popular Science.

The new law behind the ban, signed by Governor Kim Reynolds, is part of a wave of educational reforms that Republican lawmakers believe are necessary to protect students from exposure to damaging and obscene materials. Specifically, Senate File 496 mandates that every book available to students in school libraries be “age appropriate” and devoid of any “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act,” per Iowa Code 702.17.

But banning books is hard work, according to administrators, so they need to rely on machine intelligence to get it done within the three-month window mandated by the law. “It is simply not feasible to read every book and filter for these new requirements,” said Bridgette Exman, the assistant superintendent of the school district, in a statement quoted by The Gazette. “Therefore, we are using what we believe is a defensible process to identify books that should be removed from collections at the start of the 23-24 school year.”

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