Update: A reader contacted me to point out that the AP has actually published at least four other essay-mill press releases. Those included ones on October 11, October 30, December 5 and another on December 5.
Yesterday, the Associated Press (AP) published on its website a press release provided by KISSPR with the title, “The 7 Best Essay Writing Services in USA. Websites Reviews and Ranked by Experts“
Though the page makes it clear that AP news staff was not involved in the creation of the content it was hosted on the AP main website and, because of that, is included for searches for legitimate news (including both Bing News and DuckDuckGo).
The article points to and links to seven different services where students can buy papers to submit as their own. The site that sponsored the press release (which I will not be linking to) is simply a list of essay mill services, most of which are included in the press release.
The press release itself is poorly-written and is riddled with grammar errors and confusing language such as, “This writer is majorly located in these countries, and they hire them so that they reduce their operations costs.”
However, much more important than the AP playing host to a poorly written press release is the fact that it is promoting contract cheating services. This raises serious ethical and legal issues for the news wire service and its partners.
The problem itself is obvious. The Associated Press is one of the largest and most prestigious journalism institutions in the world. Its wire articles are used in publications all over the globe.
Even though their staff had no role in creating the content, promoting it on their site gives essay mills the appearance of legitimacy.
However, the article also raises legal issues. Essay mills are outright illegal in Australia and, in the UK, where the press release originated from, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled against misleading advertising from at least one essay mill.
Payment providers such as Stripe and PayPal have banned essay mills, though the PayPal ban was largely ineffective. The industry itself is highly exploitative and has even seen cases where students were blackmailed over the essays they bought.
Yet, in spite of all of these ethical and legal issues, the essay mill industry still managed to find a friendly home on the AP website.
As someone who fights for academic integrity, I find this to be deeply disheartening and discouraging. Though I try to write the articles on this site from a neutral and analytical perspective, I find it impossible to remain dispassionate about this.
What the AP and KISSPR is doing is wrong and it puts the hard work of educators all over the world at risk by legitimizing an inherently illegitimate service.
To be clear, the AP and its staff were not responsible for this. It is a press release from KISSPR published as-is on their website.
However, it’s clear that the AP needs to rethink their partnerships and how they execute them. Essay mills are exploiting those connections to take advantage of the AP’s credibility in promoting and legitimizing their industry.
My hope is that the AP will realize their mistake and remove this piece as well as put in checks to prevent future ones from going up.
Until then, they risk being a shill for an industry that seeks to undermine education, enable cheating and generally make the job harder for educators.
Note: In case the press release goes down, I have archived it here.