A BBC Trending investigation has found that hundreds of YouTubers were paid to encourage students to buy ghostwritten essays.
The BBC’s findings reveal that more than 250 channels contained ads promoting EduBirdie, a company based in Ukraine that allows students to buy “100% plagiarism-free” essays. One YouTuber promoting the service was only 12 years old.
Whilst paying someone to ghostwrite essays is not illegal, it does breach the rules of many academic institutions, and those caught can face severe penalties.
British YouTubers Joel Morris, Drew Gilchrist, and Alpay B were among those discovered to have promoted EduBirdie.
In a statement to the BBC, Alpay B said: “Whether a student wants to cheat or not, it’s totally their choice. You can’t really blame EduBirdie or creators who promote them because everyone’s got their own hustle.”
Drew posted a statement on Twitter: “I was paid £250 per post by EduBirdie… There’s a lot worse on YouTube these days.”
BIG UP IF YOU SAW ME ON THE NEWS EARLIER HAHAHAHA 😂 pic.twitter.com/7KnWaWgn2I
— Drewsif (@DrewIsSharing) May 1, 2018
Courtney Daniella and Ibrahim Mohammed, whose YouTube channels focus in part on life as students at Cambridge University, spoke to the BBC.
Asked if she had any doubts that this practice amounted to selling cheating, Courtney said: “No, not at all – [this is cheating] in plain sight. I think as soon as you hear it, whether the influencer mentions cheating or not, you know. ‘Okay, I’m not doing this work, I’m about to hand in work that I didn’t write that’s not copy and pasted. It won’t be plagiarised, but it’s not my work.’ It’s cheating.”
Ibrahim shared his thoughts on the power of that message coming from a YouTuber they trust: “You’ll see big YouTubers saying it, and that can influence smaller YouTubers to promote it as well. And then masses and masses of impact will be had on young children, teenagers… And now imagine you have all these essays to do, and now you have a solution that is being promoted by your favourite person.”
Others on Twitter were less gentle in their commentary, with Laura Bubble calling YouTubers who endorse the site “too THICK to use their online presence responsibly”:
The only people needing to use this awful EduBirdie website are the YouTubers endorsing it because they're all clearly too THICK to use their online presence responsibly https://t.co/7lct0ZS9FE
— Laura Bubble (@Laurbubble) May 2, 2018
EduBirdie is run by Boosta, which operates a number of essay-writing websites. They told the BBC: “We cannot be held responsible for what social influencers say on their channels. We give influencers total freedom on how they prefer to present the EduBirdie platform to their audience in a way they feel would be most relevant to their viewers. We do admit that many tend to copy and paste each others’ shoutouts, with a focus on ‘get someone to do your homework for you’, but this is their creative choice.”
EduBirdie also drew attention to the disclaimer on the EduBirdie site, suggesting the work provided should only be used as a sample, as reference for customers’ own work.
A YouTube spokesperson issued a statement to the BBC: “YouTube creators may include paid endorsements as part of their content only if the product or service they are endorsing complies with our advertising policies. We do not allow ads for essay writing, and so paid promotions of these services will be removed when we discover them.
“We will be working with creators going forward so they better understand that video promotions must not promote dishonest activity.”
Read about Daniel J. Layton announcing his book, Baking with Layton, or find out about the Scottish YouTuber who was fined for a video.
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