Too Much Cheating? Shut Down the Whole Internet.

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Tim Fernholz reports today that countries around the world have lost billions of dollars in economic output by shutting down the internet for various reasons:

The countries most affected? India, accounting for $968 million in lost output….[shut] off internet service during school exam periods to deter cheating. To keep students honest, India imposed a ban from 9am to 1pm in certain areas.

Say what? They shut down the whole damn internet for four hours to keep kids from cheating on exams? Yes indeed. And they aren’t the only ones:

India: “Mobile internet services will be blocked from 9 am to 1 pm in Ahmedabad….The Revenue Talatis Recruitment Exam is being conducted by ‘Gaun Seva Pasandgi Mandal’ (Gujarat State Subsidiary Selection Board or GSSSB) across the state….Considering the sensitive nature of the exam for recruitment of talatis, internet service providers have been asked to shut down all internet-based social media services from 9 am to 1 pm to prevent the misuse of mobiles during the exam.”

Uzbekistan: “Uzbek authorities suspended Internet and messaging services across the country on August 1 to prevent cheating at university entrance exams….The restrictions on the additional services have become an annual practice on exam day as authorities fight against corruption and cheating.”

Algeria: “Algerian authorities have temporarily blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to try to stop cheats posting high school exam papers online, state media reported on Sunday….’This is to protect students from the publication of false papers for these exams.’ “

Iraq: “Iraq has shut down the entire country’s internet in efforts to prevent students from cheating in exams….Wondering why the Iraqi government chose to take such a drastic step just for sixth grade finals? The reason why preventing sixth graders from cheating is such a high priority to the government is because, according to Iraqi law, education is compulsory only till the 6th grade. As a result, the pressure is fairly high on sixth graders to score well, as those who don’t make the cut are almost definitely pulled out of school.”

As you can see, this practice extends all the way from sixth grade to high school to universities to civil service exams. I guess building Faraday cages at all the test centers was too expensive, while strip searching every test taker was considered a step too far. The only option left was to shut down the internet for everyone.

All this said, the most common reason for shutting down the internet was in response to protests and other forms of civil strife. So I guess everyone is sort of used to it.

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WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

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