This morning, I woke up, stumbled blindly across my room in search of caffeine, and checked the notifications on my tablet. Yet again – an irritating email from Lashzone, this time cunningly disguised under the totally different name of 'Lashxone'. Not heard of them? This company is one of those professional academic cheating services. You send them your assignment brief, they’ll write it for you for a fee. The new branch Lashxone goes one step further and provides answers to your exams, suggesting that you check your email in a mid-test bathroom break. Not much different maybe than what’s gone before perhaps (I really wouldn't know) – except for strongly aggressive marketing and the lack of "this is for informational purposes only" – they’re blatant and unapologetic about their desire to deceive.
Academic fraud like this is surely one of the biggest potential dangers to modern science. The thought of someone getting the same degree as I’m working towards without any of the slog and work I’m putting in is a galling concept. Worse, if you extend the principle to later stages of science education with research fraud, wasting thousands of pounds of grant money and everyone’s time by publishing false results is a direct attack on scientific progress.
However for Lashzone, there is a curious backstory that a quick Google of similar sites (ugh, with a side-helping of ugh) doesn't show. Whoever made this company is as angry as we are about them. Visiting their website armed to the teeth with virus filters, the first thing I note is an image of two king cobras with the caption "if you recognize some of your teachers in this photo, you will need our help". Lecturers and tutors are snubbed as "some 'doctor' that can’t tell his left hand from right", ranting "I know it’s your job to bluff about everything, especially about the amount of knowledge you have, but people are not as dumb as you think".
We have all had experiences with a slightly abusive professor in our time. But thinking about my tutors and the faculty at my department, it makes me annoyed at best to hear them described in this way. Does this author think their anger resonates with a lot of students? And more importantly, does it actually resonate? I'm no psychologist, but it seems as though the author of the Lashzone emails and blog has some deep issues with professors. Can one person's hurt spiral and cause a snowstorm?
Well, no. Although they claim to have 7,000 customers across "the three continents" (someone should let them know there are more than three), the most public interest they seem to have received is an article and fake assignment request from an Oxford University student newspaper.
The "them and us" atmosphere Lashzone is trying to cultivate just doesn't exist with students, at least not in my experience. The pretence that all of their critics are professors is ludicrous, particularly when aimed at a newspaper whose title is "the Oxford Student". There probably are undergrads everywhere who won't bat an eyelid at undermining all their peers and their own field just to get a top class degree, but thousands of students didn't come together and march because we're annoyed that our tutor didn't give us the extra 1% we felt we deserved - the ones we are angry at are politicians doing exactly the same thing as Lashzone is: devaluing the degrees we're working day and night for.
Lashzone rating: 0/10.