Monitoring Social Media for Exam Content
Monitoring the internet as well as social media groups for the exposure of examination content is not an easy job, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution in a digital world where you can easily search for the answers to most questions. With the widespread sharing of examination content on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Reddit, credentialing organizations face a significant threat to the integrity and fairness of their assessments. When you have content from secure forms, whether it’s live examination content, practice tests or assessments, it’s more important than ever to ensure that content is not being exposed on the internet — and if it is, acting quickly to have it removed.
Over the years, the NBRC has found several effective methods for ensuring our high-stakes examination content is not exposed online, one of which is web crawling. Web crawling is an automated process of extracting information from websites using special software tools that navigate through web pages, following links and gathering data. Web crawling can identify content that matches key phrases within our examination items. Content that is identified in a web crawl will then need to be reviewed to ensure that the results produced are truly compromised content. On a regular basis, team members also manually check websites that are known to publish study content like Quizlet, Chegg Prep, Study Stack, etc. or where our organization has seen possible content exposed in the past.
Sharing examination content and “brain dump” information after taking an exam, has become a more prevalent among the younger and more tech-savvy generation. A recent trend is the sharing of content using social media groups — most found on Facebook. Social media can be particularly hard to deal with when it comes to private groups, chats and channels that may not be accessible to the public. Oftentimes, you will hear about the existence of these private groups within conversations held in larger forums that pertain to the profession, or chats that are organized as “study groups.”
Within those social media groups, team members from your organization can join the group as members whose purpose is then to monitor what is said and shared by other group members. This can act as an immediate deterrent if it is known that the group is being monitored by someone who could act if content is exposed. Communicating with moderators/administrators to remind them of examination security policies, and a gentle reminder of potential consequences of violating those policies is typically enough. This is in addition to asking the moderators/administrators to remove infringing content from their group or site. You can also directly communicate with those test takers who violate the policies, which can act as a deterrent to future infractions.
If groups or chats are private, it may be necessary to take things a step further and request or pay to gain access to those groups when it is deemed appropriate to find out what is being shared and put a stop to it. These private groups tend to be aware that what they are doing is against policy and often illegal. Allowing candidates or practitioners a way to anonymously report suspicious social media activities related to examination content exposure can help guide you to those groups where content may be shared.
In most cases, if examination content is being exposed, a simple cease and desist letter may be the only incentive needed for the individual to remove posted content and refrain from doing it again. This message reminds the person that their actions are against policy — or illegal — and additional action could be taken against their credentials for sharing content. You can also reach out to the moderator/administrator of the group to request the removal of any copyrighted content.
Over the years, social media organizations have become more proactive in assisting with taking down groups or content in the case that an administrator is not being cooperative. As an organization, you have rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). This act provides protection for service providers from certain liability based on the infringing activities of third parties. To qualify for these protections, providers must comply with certain conditions which include “notice and takedown” procedures. This gives copyright holders a quick and easy way to disable access to infringing content. Social media companies (and some others like Quizlet, Chegg Prep, Study Stack, etc.) have a publicly available takedown notice process built into their website that is compliant with the DMCA and allows for removal quickly without the use (or cost) of a legal team. While these takedown notice forms differ among sites, there are common elements which include providing examples and or links to the infringing content or attesting that the content is under copyright and the owner has not authorized the sharing of the information.
The NBRC has typically seen the best results when our organization takes an “all hands-on deck” approach, not leaving it up to one monitoring method or team member. Communication will always play an important role, as well with both our practitioners and examination candidates. Ensuring that all practitioners, students and candidates know the importance and need for examination content security along with the consequences of sharing content is a simple step to take that can stop those before they act.
The way that examination content is being shared online will continue to change year after year. It’s critical we remain steadfast and do our best to monitor and remove any content to ensure the integrity of our examinations is protected.