How to Find Online Academic Cheaters, Patent Hackers, and Corruption
It appears that DARPA is working on a way to find insider threats, and this makes sense because it is usually insiders who are exploited for information by spies, corporate espionage agents, and/or criminals. Teachers and professors at the school are trying to find ways to prevent students from plagiarizing work online and cheating in the classroom. It’s a never-ending battle, and it’s amazing how resourceful some of these students can be. If they were to use that brain power to do something useful in the world, they could probably be quite successful without any college degree.
Recently, there was an interesting article on SlashDot pointing out that those who cheat in online games tend to congregate, and when one of your friends starts cheating, all your friends tend to start cheating, and the article quoted a a couple of actual research reports on the subject, showing that the traps grew like an infectious virus. Wow, that’s interesting. In particular, the SlashDot post cited a December 21, 2011 Cornell University study; “Cheaters on the Steam Community Gaming social network”, as an example.
Now I guess none of us are too easily surprised by this, and yet I would say that this information can be easily extrapolated and compared to other sectors and should be cross-pollinated in areas like accounting misconduct, corporate corruption, bribery. in Congress, patent hacking, insider threats, etc. In other words, let’s find those who are cheating and then find out and verify that all their friends are, their real friends, not just their Facebook “friends” and then maybe we can stop this cheating problem in the whole society.
Well, here’s the question; Is it ethical for us to take a look at everyone’s friends online to see who is ethical and who is not, and then connect the dots from there? Does it make sense to prosecute an individual in the crowd who appears to be the instigator, or does he have the most friends to set an example? Many would say it’s an unfair prosecution, and yet it would solve the cheating problem. It would be like picking bad apples out of an apple barrel, so the rest of the apples don’t rot.
This is a philosophical puzzle, and perhaps this suggestion goes against the basic principles of liberty and liberty, and equal justice before the law. Americans don’t take targeted persecution very seriously. However, those who hold any kind of authority, whether it be a business, organized religion, classroom, or government agency, also realize that sometimes it is necessary to turn a bad seed into an example so that all others be honest. If the people being monitored are closely scrutinizing their friends, they are likely to have fewer friends and do more due diligence on the friends they do have so that they themselves are not labeled as insider threats, criminals, and/or cheaters.
In many ways, this could cause fewer interactions and communication online, stifle the voice and reasoning behind social media, and slow down the flow of information. That would be bad. However, it would be nice to stop the cheating and lack of integrity we see online. The problem is that the more people cheat, the more contagious it is and the more it accumulates. In many respects this is the same as the broken window theory, and I am merely suggesting a philosophical solution, but I won’t go as far as giving recommendations on how to do it. I am still thinking about this, and I ask you to consider what I have said.