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UK government blames PayPal for helping students cheat

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
PayPal is under fire. Photo: Jaap Arriens/SIPA USA/PA Images

The UK government has launched an extraordinary attack on PayPal (PYPL) over student essay writing services, warning the firm not to “profit from this dishonest business.”

A government minister said it was “unethical” for the US payment giant to process transactions for so-called essay mills, which help students cheat by writing their essays.

Tens of thousands of students are thought to use such services to boost their grades, but the government admits the real number is not known as many plagiarised essays are never detected.

The government has not announced any new measures targeting PayPal or other payment firms, but officials hope today’s warning may be enough to pressure the firm to avoid working with essay companies and student customers.

The department for education said in a press release that a previous appeal to technology giants had proved successful, with Google and YouTube removing hundreds of ads for essay services from their sites.

Officials also urged universities to crack down on plagiarism and adopt an “honour code system,” making clear to students from their first day that such essay services are unacceptable and could see them thrown off their courses.

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The department for education is currently drafting an education technology strategy, which will encourage tech firms to develop anti-cheating software when it is published in the next few months.

“It is simply unethical for these companies to profit from this dishonest business which is exploiting young people and it is time to stamp them out of our world-class higher education sector,” said education secretary Damian Hinds.

“I am determined to beat the cheats who threaten the integrity of our system and am calling on online giants, such as PayPal, to block payments or end the advertisement of these services – it is their moral duty to do so.”

PayPal has been approached for comment.

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