Sharing Too Much: Russian Students Use Social Media and Time Zones to Cheat

Photographer: Marcel ter Bekke/Getty Images

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Photographer: Marcel ter Bekke/Getty Images

Sharing is the cornerstone of any social network, but users of Vkontakte, Russia's version of Facebook, went too far.

Last week, Russia's government asked the social network to block groups totaling 1.6 million users for reasons having nothing to do with political dissent. Rather, high-school students were sharing questions and answers on the Unified State Exam that determines which university -- if any -- they're admitted to.

Four years ago, Russia switched to multiple choice exams to avoid subjectivity in grading and cut corruption related to school admissions. Still, this change didn't address a major factor in the most recent problem: time zones. Russia has nine of them, which allow students in the country's eastern part to post exam materials online to help friends in the western part.

VKontakte clamped down on the cheaters at the request of the government's educational watchdog Rosobrnadzor, according to the social network's press office.

The issue was big enough to reach the level of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

"These exams make me regret that Russia doesn't have a single time zone like some of our large neighbors," Medvedev said, referring to China, at a government meeting that was broadcast.

He was joking. Maybe.

In 2011, Medvedev cancelled daylight-savings time for Russia, saying that turning the clocks back to winter time disrupts the "biorhythm" of people and confuses milk cows.

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