Internet Shutdowns to Prevent Cheating During Exams: The Impact on Society and Economy in the MENA Region

This SMEX research report was written by Sarah Cupler, an independent research consultant. It was funded by the Internet Society.

The report, Internet Shutdowns to Prevent Cheating During Exams: The Impact on Society and Economy in the MENA Region, analyzes the use of internet shutdowns to combat cheating and to control information leaks during school exams in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Although it is a regional report, we focus mostly on those countries that have used exam related shutdowns in 2021. The report assesses the effects that these shutdowns have on society, the economy, and the internet overall. Our findings confirm that all internet shutdowns are unjustifiable, harm societies, economies, and the health of the global internet.

This report explains the tools that authorities commonly use to control the internet and outlines a short history of how internet shutdowns have been used during exams in the MENA region. Section 1 explains the importance of internet connectivity for the economy, internet infrastructure, and digital rights. It then details how this practice undermines the Internet Society’s Internet Way of Networking (IWN) and impacts the goals and enablers for a healthy internet as set out by the Internet Society.

In section 2 we highlight the practices, policies, and context in each country where an internet shutdown took place during exams in 2021, followed by an impact analysis that focuses on the effect that the shutdown had on the country and its residents. The report concludes by offering recommendations and outlining alternative methods of preventing cheating that are less intrusive.

Download full report here.



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SMEX is a registered Lebanese NGO that works to advance self-regulating information societies in the Middle East and North Africa.