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I don't care what the essay sites say, to me they are clearly about cheating in order to obtain academic qualifications.
Plagiarism is a major problem in universities, and these services don't help as they give students materials which the universities are frequently unable to detect as not being from that student.
If they were truely 'model answers for information only' then they'd be happy to disclose lists of their customers to universities along with which essays were purchased - or at least to feed their essays into the databanks of the major antiplagiarism services.
Don't forget, this isn't a victimless crime, it's something which hurts every single person who has gone through their education without cheating.
Google, commenting on the change, says its advertising policies are "developed and evaluated based on multiple factors, including legal and cultural considerations plus user and customer experience".
Submitting a bought work as someone's own is fraudulent, and while it may not be illegal, it doesn't quite measure up to being culturally acceptable. Ultimately, the end user is the universities, who use the papers for grading purposes and graduation requirements. As the end targeted recipients, it doesn't exactly provide them with a satisfactory user experience.
But with the size and market impact of Google, they need to think twice and again before they do such things now.
Paypal, as we all know, does not accept payments for adult content, even not for "soft". There are definitely things going beyond legal or not and which are up to the company culture.
They do a discredit to the academic establishment by fooling universities into passing those students who subsequently cannot demonstrate the learning or ability they are supposed to have picked up from the institution where they studied.
There is no need to make the practice illegal - the law is not the answer to everything - but it is certainly contemptible and Google is bold and justified in ditching these ads.
I say if you want to solve the problem Google... ban bad parenting! ;-)
More generally, it's nice to see Google taking steps to protect the reputation of its advertising platforms (dealing with arbitrage sites is another such step). A reappraisal of quality control (of both advertisers and publishers) was overdue.
If they feel compelled, I'd rather see G work with universities on an indexing and searching system for submitted work, because this is the university system's issue.
The bad behavior isn't inherently the ads, it's the plagiarism. If G had a university plagiarism detector they developed (surely students are submitting electronic documents that can be slurped in the system -- and i know G's goal is to manage the worlds information), then let the corrupt companies pay for ads, get paid for services, then get sued by students for providing plagiarized reports (and the collateral damage done to students for submitting paid-for works that are a scam). Also, let the copyright owners of the original works know so they can chase damages also.
This would put a serious chill on students who seek to pay for a degree, whereas the new "ban the ads" plan just relieves G of liability.
G already licenses their API to a company called CopySentry that scans the Internet looking for copyright violations. The technology is readily available and it's vitally in the university's interests.
i wish they'd change their motto to... "do no evil, and once in a while, try to do some good too".
[edited by: RhinoFish at 1:31 pm (utc) on May 23, 2007]
I believe there's got to be some, if not many, legit essay writing services that have nothing to do with college plagiarism - these folks are unfairly harmed by an outright ban.
Google doesn't allow advertising of fireworks, tobacco-related products, firearms, ammunition, and certain other products, either, even in jurisdictions where those products are legal. That's Google's privilege, and having ad standards is nothing new. (I can remember when PLAYBOY woudn't accept ads for condoms or deodorant.)
There are many other products, for example, kits to 'pass' drug tests, allows drug users to enter the military.
How all that is going to be sorted out will be interesting to watch.
Plagiarism is so rife amongst undergrads that I despaired of ever catching most people at it. I seriously think that some other method should be used to test knowledge amongst undergrads, something more like individual question and answer or in-class essay writing with no notes allowed. Meanwhile, you have what you have--IME, the vast majority of students are not writing the vast majority of the papers they turn in. They are cadged or bought--and not just online, but from fraternities, which actually keep copies of all tests and papers of their members, and from individual students who have a side business of writing other students' papers for them. There is software now available that checks a student's paper against everything on the Internet, but that wasn't around when I was teaching. I considered that it was the student's choice whether they plagiarized or turned in someone else's work as their own. Either they want to learn or they don't.
Some of these businesses do just change the first page or the title of a paper and sell it as a different paper, IOW, they will sell you a paper or even a dissertation someone else has previously turned in. I have seen them selling others' dissertations for $350. But there are also businesses that work with students and academics. These will edit, rewrite, or even create the paper, article, or dissertation from scratch (or based on the raw data you give them, if it's in the sciences--I knew a guy who did nothing but crank stats for people needing a stats section of their dissertation in the sciences). I specialized in writing theses, dissertations, and articles for peer-reviewed journals in education, psychology, law, and engineering--even though I actually never took any classes in most of these fields. I just knew how to research and write academic material. This is what I mean by seeing it from both sides.
Most of the time the individual I wrote for had actually done the research but did not know how to write it up. The people I worked with were grad students or professors. Many of them had problems with English, but there were plenty of native speakers among them too. Usually they simply had no preparation to write anything, much less something as specialized in language and organization as a master's thesis, an article for a peer-reviewed journal, or a dissertation, and their education did not give them any training in this kind of work either. A couple just didn't want to take the time. Others were approaching the end of the time they were allowed to turn in a dissertation or thesis and were hysterical or frozen in the headlights. I once wrote a 280-page dissertation based on the student's raw data in literally 17 days. And it passed with flying colors. I also had a couple of people who were so deep in depression they could not do their work. At least one was mad.
All the writing and research I did was original and thus contributed to the field. All the theses and dissertations that I wrote passed with few changes. And this was mostly at accredited American schools, although I also wrote some for foreign university programs and professors. It opened my eyes to what kind of oversight there is at the graduate level in general. I regularly got comments back from readers or reviewers who made clear that they had not actually read the paper at all or at most glossed over it. It stunned me. They just pulled stuff out of their behind to say or gave the person some busy work or told them to change the headings. Many of them had no idea of what was going on in their field. They told students to read books that had been new 30 years previous. They were unable to put what the student had done in context and thus had no sense of whether the student was turning in someone else's writing or their own. They themselves did not know how to construct a thesis or dissertation, so they couldn't guide the student even on this formal level.
All you have to do is spend some time talking to a student or professor to determine if s/he really put together the material they say they wrote or got it from somewhere else. But if you don't do it, or the university has it set up so that you have too many students to police, it is quite easy for people to turn in others' work as their own. It is simple as pie for academics to do it, and it happens a LOT, way more than most people not in academia would believe. And it is of course not at all confined to academia. It is rife in journalism and in other fields as well, from preaching to fiction writing.
Still, the bottom line is that no matter how many papers you buy, if you don't know what you're talking about, it will show when you open your mouth.
I was glad to quit doing this, as I got burned out and disgusted with how much the whole system is broken. I could never have made a living doing this if my stuff had not been passed almost without question practically everywhere. It was a relief when my little online widget shop finally began making enough for me to say to the next person who came down the pike needing a diss that I did not do that anymore. But I don't regret what I did. I don't feel like it made me less of a human being or cheapened my or anyone else's degree or ruined the whole academic process. Because like I said, I've seen it from both sides.
As for whether Google should ban the ads of such places from AdWords, I do not see how that addresses the root issue at all. However, it is certainly their choice to do.
[edited by: HRoth at 6:06 pm (utc) on May 23, 2007]
I was glad to quit doing this, as I got burned out and disgusted with how much the whole system is broken. I could never have made a living doing this if my stuff had not been passed almost without question practically everywhere.
[edited by: Marcia at 7:37 pm (utc) on May 23, 2007]
Google is invaluable for detecting plagiarism, much more so than any other engine, both because of their limited semantic search capabilities which will accept minor changes in wording and synonymns, and becauase they index vast quantities of subscription-only content such as scientific papers. It would be great for Google to come out with a tool for plagiarism detection... they could do a better job than any other company on the market - just think of their investment in detecting duplicate content for a start!
Remember that Google themselves rely upon academically qualified people, particularly those with a Ph D degree. Perhaps this can also be seen as helping to improve the quality of their own future staff members, please their existing staff with academic leanings through this act of support for academia, as well as curry favour with faculties and staff who they hope will direct the most suitable and gifted candidates their way.
It will be like with adult/p0rn content - according to the "official" rules, it's not allowed, but there are unexplained exceptions for some groups of advertisers and Google tolerates that.
But this face-to-face dialigue with a tutor is time-consuming and requires the universities to actually take a personal interest in the students they are educating. And that's just not cost-effective.
It's not Google's job to fix a broken tertiary education system. But I'm delighted that they have started to remove some of the types that have been giving adwords/adsense a bad name. Their purge of essay-writing services seems to be the latest step in that direction (though perhaps some worthy and entirely honourable essay-writers may care to present an opposite view?)
"Essay services undermine the educational process."
Google is trying to look nice to the public, now that they are a public corporation. The academia will not be affected by a single bit.
The above posts by biscuit and HRoth should open eyes to some. Others, who still think that good grades and degrees mean much, pay no attention.
First it pr0n, then gambling, now essay writing, who's next? It is sad to see that G allows somebody else to boss them around. The looser here is Google because it has just undermined the trust of many advertisers and users. How can I trust G to give me unbiased search results now? How can I factor Adwords in my business model, when I can be next in the list?
The best "do no evil policy" is to not think you're God.
It is sad to see that G allows somebody else to boss them around.
How is taking a stand equivalent to allowing others to boss one around?
Surely shrugging ones shoulders and saying: "We can't do anything it's just the free market / human nature / the way it goes" the equivalent of waving the biggest white flag and sobbing: "Yes, okay, we'll let anyone trample all over our platform"?
Integrity has to be better than passivity, doesn't it?
I'm an academic, and I'd argue that the problem is with the universities, not with Google.
submitted work should be just the start of the evaluation process. Students should then have to defend (in person, without notes) the facts and opinions they offer in their work.
Thirty years ago, you had to know the material to get through the course. Now you have to know how to operate a credit card.
The Universities have been blindsided by technological change. And, being universities (that is, lumbering bureaucracies), they have been slow to respond. I really believe that they have not grasped how serious this situation is for them. Their "brand" is under serious threat.
Certainly, the way forward is through improved methods of assessment. However, time-intensive low-tech solutions such as those mentioned earlier are not feasible for the same reason they were never widely adopted in the first place: they are simply too expensive. (or if you like, they are too time-intensive, which amounts to the same thing).
The salvation of the Universities may lie in the same technology that threatens to destroy them. There needs to be investment in developing sophisticated new evaluation methods that are not easily gamed.
How is taking a stand equivalent to allowing others to boss one around?
People's views on ethics and integrity may differ, that's why there is a criminal code by which we all have to abide.
The simple fact is that Universities are being gamed by new technology and ruthless players.
The Universities have been gamed since there were Universities, there is nothing new about it.
Yes, there have always been cheats, but the problem was never this widespread. The internet has (a) made cheating a lot easier, and (b) turned it into a multi-million dollar industry. So there has been a real change. While the problem was small, it could be ignored. When cheating becomes normal, you've got a crisis.
Change the system and there will not be incentives to plagiarize. How about decreasing class sizes, so that there is more time for instructor to devote to each student via one-to-one tutoring? Otherwise all you learn is how to write papers.