Predictably, cheating in school has advanced with time. Students have hacked servers, hit schools with DDoS attacks, and purchased schoolwork on the dark web. In an extreme measure to prevent students from leaking high school diploma exams online, Algeria has begun instituting nationwide internet blackouts.
The country will turn off mobile and landline internet service across the country for an hour at a time during the exam period, which started on Wednesday and runs through 25 June. The 11 blackouts are scheduled for an hour after each exam begins. In 2016, exam questions were reportedly leaked online and authorities were dissatisfied with a less stringent attempt to limit social media during the 2017 exams.
The sweeping shutdown will also block Facebook for the entirety of the exam period, Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit told Algerian newspaper Annahar, according to the BBC. Benghabrit reportedly said they are “not comfortable” with their choice to shut down all internet service, but that they “should not passively stand in front of such a possible leak”.
Schools proctoring the exams have also been equipped with metal detectors to make sure that no one, including staff, brings any internet-enabled devices into the exam halls. What’s more, Benghabrit said that they have installed surveillance cameras and phone jammers at the locations where the exams are being printed.
“Governments take these measures and suggest that ‘widespread cheating’ or some variation of that phrase has occurred in the previous year, but they never provide data and they never mention how effective these internet shutdowns were,” SMEX’s Grant Baker told Al Jazeera. SMEX is an organisation advocating for a free and open internet in the Arab world. The Lebanese non-governmental organisation is currently soliciting stories from individuals negatively affected by an exam internet shutdown.
It remains to be seen whether an internet and social media blackout will resolve Algeria’s alleged exam leaking issue. While it will certainly make it more difficult, kids are creative, and have gone to elaborate and impressive measures to cheat the system. Over a decade ago, a school banned iPods in an attempt to stop exam cheating. That strategy seems laughable now. [BBC]