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Algeria blocks social networks to prevent exam fraud

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Algeria temporarily blocked access to social networks on Sunday to prevent cheating after leaked papers forced hundred of thousands of students to resit high school final exams.

Facebook and Twitter have been blocked since late Saturday and are to remain inaccessible to millions of Algerians until after the last test on Thursday, a telecom source told AFP.

The decision “is directly linked to the baccalaureate” and aimed at “protecting students from falling prey to fake questions” posted online, the source said.

More than 500,000 students out of the 800,000 who had sat the exams known as the “baccalaureate” this month were being re-tested Sunday, the education ministry said.

It said most of the leaks cover science subjects and mathematics.

“The authorities have chosen the simplest solution,” said information technology expert Younes Grar.

He said the risk of fraud could have been prevented if the authorities had chosen to encrypt the exam questions and printed them at exam centres instead of transporting hard copies across the country.

“The decision to block social networks penalises millions of Internet users,” he said.

According to official estimates, 18 million Algerians out of a population of 40 million are active on the Internet and social networks.

On Sunday some users said they faced difficulties accessing websites, including Google, although authorities had said only social networks would be blocked.

Dozens of people, including the heads of national exam centres and teachers, were arrested this month on suspicions of leaking the final exam papers.

The leaks have sparked outrage in the oil-rich country.

Education Minister Nouria Benghebrit broke down in tears in public this month when she was told of the leak.

A police statement carried by Algeria’s APS news agency on June 7 said cybercrime investigators had identified individuals who had “published (exam) material on social networks” as well as those who facilitated the leak.

Egypt also reported cheating this year at high school exams.




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