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Algeria blocks internet access to prevent exam cheats

Image of Algerian students taking their exams on 31 May 2011 [Magharebia/Flickr]
Algerian students taking their exams on 31 May 2011 [Magharebia/Flickr]

Nearly 27 million internet users in Algeria will be deprived of mobile internet network this week as the government attempts to prevent further leaks and cheating in the upcoming baccalaureate exams which 761,700 pupils are expected to take.

Last year saw the biggest leak of exam questions online on the second day of examinations. Thousands of students were forced to retake the tough exams, sparking an outcry against the Minister of National Education Nouria Benghabrit-Remaoun.

The CCTV system and mobile phone jamming devices currently in place have yet again not been sufficient for the Ministry of Education to prevent "fraud". Yesterday reports emerged that the examination subjects were leaked online only hours after their official unveiling.

According to Benghabrit-Remaoun, however, the 2017 baccalaureate exams started in "excellent conditions" without "any leakage of subjects".

Read: Algerian Professor beaten unconscious by university students

She said that "a thorough investigation into the origin of this dissemination will nevertheless be carried out" and that "justice is the only party empowered to rule on such situations".

Internet users were invited to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to continue surfing on social media sites, systems which allowed them to surf the internet anonymously bypassing local blockages through proxies. The leaks were enabled using these VPNs.

Many Algerians questioned why authorities deprived millions of internet subscribers from using the internet at home "instead of finding an effective solution against fraud".

They demanded on Facebook to be compensated for lost subscription times during which they could not connect to the mobile internet and accused operators of "making illicit profits and gains".

Communication giants like Algeria Telecom will also undergo big financial losses. According to an assessment of the cut of the submarine fibre optic cable Annaba-Marseille in October 2015 the national internet provider is expected to lose no less than 100 million dinars every day there is no connection.

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