Facebook has partnered with the Central Board of Secondary Education to offer courses on digital safety, Instagram use, and Augmented Reality (AR). CBSE announced the partnership in a circular on Saturday. The AR course will train teachers (who will then train students) on how to use Facebook’s own Spark AR Studio software. The courses’ terms and conditions say that the implementation will be done by the Startup Village Collective (SV.CO), a Bangalore-based private company which already has a partnership with Facebook to train college students on AR. Facebook said that the digital safety and Instagram use courses will be implemented by the Centre for Social Research, a New Delhi-based research institute that describes itself as “lobbyist, advocate and advisor to government institutions”.

The course, and CBSE’s announcement of it, essentially give Spark AR Studio a boost among educators and students at CBSE-affiliated schools — all CBSE schools are being sent a copy of this circular. What’s more, the terms give Facebook carte blanche to use any of the work that participants produce — and also their pictures and likenesses — during the course for marketing or any other purpose.

“By applying to this Program (except where prohibited by law), each Individual agreeing to these Terms as part of an Application Form grants the Released Parties the irrevocable, sublicensable, free-of-charge, absolute right and permission to use, publish, post or display his or her name, photograph, likeness, voice, biographical information, including educational affiliation, any quotes attributable to him or her, and any other indicia of persona (regardless of whether altered, changed, modified, edited, used alone, or used with other material in the Released Parties’ sole discretion) for advertising, trade, promotional and publicity purposes without further obligation or compensation of any kind to him or her, anywhere worldwide, in any medium now known or hereafter discovered or devised (including, without limitation, on the Internet) without any limitation of time and without notice, review or approval, and each such person releases all Released Parties from any and all liability related to such authorized uses. Nothing contained in these Terms obligates Program Entities to make use of any of the rights granted herein and each natural person granting publicity rights under this provision waives any right to inspect or approve any such use.

[source; emphasis ours]

Only students aged 14–19 are eligible to participate. The terms and conditions above are available on the CBSE website, but the registration forms for the courses do not link out to the terms. On top of that, the last page of the terms has a part saying “[Insert URL where terms will be posted]”. The form for teachers (archived here) and students (archived here) links out to this generic page containing terms for Facebook services, meaning participants, including students, are signing over rights to their creations and likeness without any direct way of knowing they are doing so.

AR course to reach 30,000 students

The Augmented Reality course will be for up to 10,000 teachers and school principals, who will then teach up to 30,000 students, the circular said. The digital safety and Instagram courses will be offered to students in groups of up to 300.

MediaNama’s take: It’s understandable that Facebook would want to promote Spark AR Studio to give a boost to the platform, and perhaps infuse it with a fresh batch of creators. What is unclear is why CBSE would provide this private company’s effort of questionable scholarly value a platform and publicity. If Facebook wants to work with schools to teach AR technology to students, that’s perfectly fine — but they should not be receiving explicit state support to do so.

Digital safety training

“Through the [digital safety] training, students will understand their digital identity and become responsible digital users,” the circular said. “We will explore the essentials of how to communicate responsibly online, how to identify and respond to threats and harassment, and the tools with which they can empower themselves to stay safe and communicate safely online.”

MediaNama’s take: These courses seem to be what might make Facebook’s program palatable to the CBSE. In a press release, CBSE chairperson said, “I am proud to share that CBSE is the only Board that has introduced the modules of Digital Safety and Online Well-being, Instagram Toolkit for Teens and Augmented Reality.” Facebook and Instagram have been under the scanner in India and abroad for cyberbullying and harassment faced by teenagers on their platforms. A 2017 study showed that these two platforms see the highest percentage of incidence of cyberbullying among young people.

Facebook’s education moves in India

  • April 2020: In partnership with UNESCO, Facebook published a guide for online learning for teachers in English, Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi and Kannada. That guide contains links to official government and WHO resources, and also pitches Facebook’s own products such as WhatsApp, Workplace, Facebook Live, and Messenger.
  • September 2019: The government of Gujarat onboarded over 115,000 teachers onto Workplace, Facebook’s productivity platform. The Gujarat government issued a circular asking teachers to download the app. Facebook said that this is the largest deployment of its Workplace software in the world. The company had made Workplace free for educators in 2018.