It’s the network

The other night my sister-in-law was visiting. She and my husband are in the same trade – tertiary education – so naturally they spend a lot of time talking shop. The internal politics, the slipping standards, and the cheating. Oh, the cheating! Or plagiarism. Or sloppy referencing. Or as seems particularly popular these days, just out-and-out buying your research papers and essays from a factory of researchers.

I blame the Internet.

In the olden days, that is when I went to university – it was hard to find someone who could write you a decent term paper. The search costs were high. You’d have to arrange to discuss your needs with them. Now contacts can be passed easily through social networks. Papers can be tailored and re-submitted by students at different institutions, reducing costs. You can even complete the whole process online – here’s one such purveyor of purloined knowledge. Although if the quality of writing on their pitch page is anything to go by…

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But it’s not just plagiarised term papers. You don’t have to go far to run into a story about how Internet, and Facebook in particular, is ruining everything from the jury system to the the trust we place in day care providers.

This morning David Davies, in a Comment is Free piece, writes:

Many reports focus on the fact that Ms Fraill is the first juror to be convicted for contempt of court through her use of a social media site. This misses the point. That Fraill used Facebook is neither here nor there. The real problem this case revealed is that, in this internet age, it is becoming more and more difficult to try cases without prejudice.

Some people are lazy or vile or curious beyond the bounds of the law. But the internet and social networks allow them to establish relationships with like-minded individuals at lower cost and effort than we have ever before imagined possible. That some seek to exploit these relationships for evil ends should not be a surprise. But because we’re not always equipped to deal with the extended networks of the criminally minded, we often treat it as if it is.


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