For as long as there have been essays, there have been students complaining about them.
However, rather than simply complaining to peers or instructors, thanks to the the Internet, more and more of it winds up online, especially on social networking sites.
But students who post their gripes about essays or homework assignments on Twitter are often getting unwanted attention from online essay mills, who are responding to tweets offering their services to those in “distress”.
A quick search on Twitter finds dozens of accounts promoting essay mills and custom essay writing services. But the services don’t just stop with writing custom essays, they also promise to take online classes for you “with perfect results”, do any kind of homework, including computer programming, and even resell original student assignments.
While most of the accounts are tied to a website, many of the services operate solely on Twitter, advertising email addresses (usually located on Yahoo or Gmail) or phone numbers that the student is to call/contact to get a quote.
When students post about their essays, they are often bombarded with such offers. However, it’s unclear if the tweets are automatically generated or are done by a human. I attempted to bait the bots myself with no luck, indicating they are likely run by humans.
Either way, it doesn’t seem like these Twitter accounts are becoming wildly successful. Most have fewer than 500 followers and no students, in my searches, showed any public interest in the offers. Several responded derisively calling the offers “spam”.
However, there is a real threat that such tweets could normalize the behavior and put it in the front of students’ minds. While a student isn’t likely to respond to a spam tweet and become a paying customer of an essay mill, seeing how many options there are could change attitudes toward the behavior for the worse.
The move also represents something of a change in marketing for essay mills and essay writing services. Though the services have always advertised in newspapers, magazines and, more recently, online, they typically haven’t been aggressively targeting individual students. Students who wanted such services typically sought them out rather than the other way around.
This more aggressive promotion is likely a sign of dire competition in the essay writing service industry. The Internet has made it possible for just about anyone to set up a ghostwriting service, regardless of where they are located physically, and that has caused competition to increase and rates to drop. This has forced some services to get more aggressive with their marketing.
Still, this aggression could pose problems for instructors everywhere, not only because it could push more students to consider essay writing services, but because it makes such ghostwriting seem acceptable.
Unfortunately, Twitter isn’t likely to do much against such services. Unless their accounts cross the line into spamming, there is no violation of Twitter’s terms of service to promote an essay mill or student cheating service. This means that the problem is likely to grow, making it something instructors should be aware of and possibly warn their students about.
The views of this blog represent my own and not the views of WriteCheck.