Internet Fragmentation > Internet Shutdowns during Exams

Shutting Down the Internet Cheats Everyone

Region: Global
Threat type: Internet Shutdowns
Last updated: 1 December 2023

Some governments shut down the Internet during exam time, to prevent cheating. But it is disproportionate, and it cheats everyone.

Internet access is an essential part of life for many people around the globe–but for millions of people, things become extremely hard during the school exam period. Every year, governments around the world–including Sudan, Jordan, Iraq, Algeria, Syria, and India–make the draconian decision to implement Internet shutdowns during school or competitive exam periods.

In many countries, general public exams determine much of what a student is able to do later on, such as what university they can go to and which subjects they are qualified to study. In some countries, cheating on these exams can mean jail time, but the pressure is so huge on these young people that some will resort to cheating anyway.

Governments in these countries believe that this temporary shutdown will help prevent students from cheating or sharing exam questions, but it does more than shut millions of students off from their communication, and even their study material.

Exam-related shutdowns result in public outrage, since they also cause essential social, political, economic, and cultural activities to come to a standstill. They particularly impact women and gender minorities. A shutdown means being unable to communicate with loved ones, access money, or even check a transit schedule.

Internet shutdowns are never a proportionate response to anything, no matter how long they last. Even if a shutdown were to prevent exam cheaters from communicating, it also prevents everyone else from using online services. It is not an effective anti-cheating mechanism, and it comes at a cost to all of society.

In addition to the direct and immediate effect of losing access to online services, shutdowns normalize disruptions to access. It makes those disruptions seem, not just normal, but even accepted. This damages the reliability of and trust in the Internet, which is of vital importance for socio-economic development everywhere.

Rather than prevent cheating, Internet shutdowns during exam periods cheat everyone out of their ability to access essential services. Every shutdown also reduces resilience, and damages confidence in the availability of the Internet as a global resource.


The Internet Society is tracking and measuring these disruptions and working with partners in the region with the objective of bringing awareness that this practice should end. All of our resources and monitoring of Internet shutdowns and the health of the Internet can be seen on the Internet Society Pulse platform.

Our Position

Internet shutdowns harm societies and economies, and they reduce the reliability of the global Internet infrastructure. We urge governments and decision-makers everywhere to support policies that keep the Internet on and strong, in order to build robust and resilient economies and give people the opportunity to build their own prosperous futures. Internet shutdowns are disproportionate, and there is no evidence to suggest that cutting off access to the Internet during exams actually prevents cheating.

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Talking Points

  • Internet shutdowns are sometimes used as a swift, sweeping response to a non-technical problem, like preventing students from cheating during exam periods. But even if these tactics did prevent cheating—and there is no evidence that they do—cutting off everyone’s access to the Internet is an extremely disproportionate response.
  • Every shutdown not only cuts people in a region off from the Internet, it also cuts the world off from that region. Many web services use backend components based in multiple geographies, so even a company outside the area could be affected by the shutdown. For the Internet to be open, secure, and trustworthy, it needs to be global, and every shutdown makes it less global.
  • Reliable access to the Internet is especially important for marginalized individuals and groups, and cutting off their access means they are even more constrained. It becomes even more difficult to communicate, travel, or do business safely and securely