A recent BBC investigation found that YouTube stars are being paid to sell academic cheating. The investigation uncovered more than 250 channels covering a range of subjects covering a range of subjects on YouTube that are promoting Ukrainian-based EduBirdie, which allows students to buy essays rather than doing the work themselves. In fact, there were more than 1,400 videos with a total of more than 700 million view containing EduBirdie adverts selling cheating to students of all levels.
Popular YouTubers, some as young as 12, are being paid to personally endorse EduBirdie. The EduBirdie adverts appear in videos on YouTube channels covering a range of subjects, including pranks, dating, gaming, music and fashion. They include several by stars such as Adam Saleh whose channel has four million subscribers, and British gamer JMX who has two and a half million subscribers. In fact, Google’s own research found that with their outreach and millions of subscribers, these YouTubers were more influential than celebrities when it came to promoting products.
Reacting to the issue, Sam Gyimah, Universities Minister for England, expressed his shock: “It’s clearly wrong because it is enabling and normalising cheating potentially on an industrial scale.” He then called on YouTube to take action, citing that it has a moral responsibility to act and not continue to enable and perpetuate unethical advertising that promotes dishonest behaviour.
In response, YouTube said that while creators may include paid endorsements as part of their content, it is only allowed if the product or service being endorsed complies with YouTube’s advertising policies. Thus, it has taken steps to remove videos with paid promotions of EduBirdie or other essay writing services whenever it discovers them. Ultimately, YouTube stresses that it will be “working with creators going forward so they better understand that video promotions must not promote dishonest activity”.
In actual fact, the phenomenon of getting someone to write your essay for you is not something new. However, in today’s digital world, the scale of the phenomenon is amplified through easily available and accessible technology. The root of the problem stems from the motivation and pressures of getting good grades. As educators, we have to examine the role of education and the purpose of grades. If we truly want students to really enjoy learning and reap the benefits from it, are graded papers the only way to assess a student’s abilities? We must reflect on this, particularly in light of all the pressures it can exert on students which may drive them to seek out less than ideal solutions such as EduBirdie and other essay writing services.
If you want to read more about the BBC investigation, click the following link: