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Algeria blocks social networks throughout the country to prevent cheating in exams

Over 500,000 high school students were required to resit exams after exam papers were leaked.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

SOCIAL NETWORKS HAVE been temporarily blocked throughout Algeria in an effort to stop students cheating in high school exams.

The decision comes after leaked papers forced over 500,000 students to resit their final tests on Sunday.

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.

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The exams are known as “the baccalaureate” and are the equivalent of the Leaving Cert in secondary school in Ireland.

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

What the experts say

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

He said the leaks 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.

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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 cyber-crime investigators had identified individuals who had “published (exam) material on social networks” as well as those who facilitated the leak.

© AFP 2016

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