Algeria shuts down Internet access to prevent students from cheating on exams

By @chelean on
People use computers at an Internet cafe in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan province March 13, 2007.
People use computers at an Internet cafe in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan province March 13, 2007. Reuters/Stringer

The Algeria government has shut down the country’s entire Internet connection in a bid to stop high school students from cheating on their exams. It has ordered telco companies to shut down the Internet service, both mobile and fixed line, every day for the next few days.

The blackouts, which include the complete shutdown of Facebook, are on from June 20 to 25. According to Aljazeera, Algerie Telecom said the access will be cut off for mobile and landline connections for about two hours every morning.

The move was in response to the 2016 cheating incident in the country, in which questions for high school exams were leaked online before and during the high school students’ tests. Authorities had asked Internet service providers to block access to social media sites last year, but it appears the measure wasn’t enough for the government. It has now ordered the complete shutdown of the Internet for six days throughout the exam season.

Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit told local paper Annahar (via BBC) that while they were “not comfortable” with the decision, but it was necessary. She said all electronic devices with Internet access for both students and school staff have been banned from the 2,000 exam halls in the country, with metal detectors set up at the entrances. The country has also set up surveillance cameras and mobile phone jammers at exam printing presses.

The results of the high school certificate exams, taken by over 700,000 students in the country, are expected on July 22.

Algeria isn’t the only country that resorted to extreme measures to stop exam fraud. India, Syria, Ethiopia, Mauritania and Iraq have also disconnected their Internet services to prevent students from cheating in recent years. Human rights group Access Now called on governments around the world in 2017 to stop Internet shutdowns.