Iraq shut down its internet to prevent sixth-graders from cheating

The exam room is quiet, and you’re on a roll. You’re calculating percentages and ratios like a pro when suddenly—could it be? You forget the difference between a mean and a median. You slip your phone out of your pocket and stealthily open Google, but it won’t load. You glance at your neighbor and see the same look of panic on her face and a blank screen on her phone, too. Is Internet service down in the whole building?

If you’re one of the many thousands of sixth-graders taking a series of national exams in Iraq this month, it’s not just the building. The Internet is down in most of the country—and it’s because of the exams themselves.

The arms race between cheaters and test administrators is nothing new, and handheld devices that can connect to the Internet have tipped the scales in favor of test-takers looking for a little help.

But the Iraqi government has taken the sledgehammer approach to the problem: This is the second year in a row that it has ordered Iraqi telecom companies to shut down to the Internet in order to prevent cheating, according to human-rights groups. The research arm of Dyn, an Internet analytics company, logged a pattern of 3-hour long blackouts starting three days ago.