Algeria turns off its internet to keep students from cheating on exams

By RORY SMITH, CNN
Aron Balogh via freeimages.com

Algeria switched off its internet on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent cheating on exams.

(CNN) - Algeria switched off its internet on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent cheating on exams.

Phone jammers, surveillance cameras and metal detectors were also set up in the more than 2,000 exam centers across the north African country to battle academic dishonesty.

Mobile phones were already prohibited during exams, but because of the development of technology and the speed with which things can be posted online, it was also necessary to shut down the internet, Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit told state television.

According to Algeria Telecom, the state-owned telecommunications provider, the internet shutdown was implemented "in compliance with instructions from the government, aimed at ensuring the high school diploma tests run smoothly."

In 2016 Algeria was hit by controversy when seven final exam papers were leaked on the internet and through social-media channels. The government ended up blocking access to Facebook and Twitter, but ultimately 300,000 students had to retake their exams, according to Reuters.

Dozens of education officials were arrested and various teachers and heads of national exam centers were also rounded up for their supposed involvement in the leak. And while access to social media was again blocked in 2017, the move didn't entirely fix the problem, according to Agence France-Presse.

The internet blackouts -- which last until an hour after the start of each exam -- are being used to hamstring cheating on the national high school exams, which students must pass to apply for university. The internet will be shut down for a total of three hours each day during the exam season, which lasts from June 20 to 25, according to a tweet by Radio Algeria.

The shutdown is necessary "to be fair for all students," Benghabrit said.

Algeria's blackout can be seen in Oracle's Internet Intelligence project, which maps web access globally.

The Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Iraq, Syria and Tunisia have also used internet blackouts to prevent cheating, according to Access Now, a digital-rights advocacy group. However, internet shutdowns generate substantial economic costs, and Access Now says it's not clear if they are the most efficient and preferable means to prevent cheating.

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