Update: I did not expect this article to receive so much traffic and get featured on Wikipedia. For that reason, I will keep expanding my thoughts, not on just Brainly, but the whole structure of online information sharing. The basic question is straightforward:
“Is it ethical to allow platforms that produce technically harmless free speech to do so?”
I'm not sure there is an answer that won't offend a large part of the Earth's population. Including Brainly's users.
Brainly is quite an emerging trend these days, which is to be expected in the middle of a global pandemic. Brainly is a Polish education technology company that provides a peer-to-peer learning platform for students to answer homework questions. The developing company has added gamification and user ranking elements to its platform to increase community engagement, and as of November 2020, it recorded 350 million monthly users. As things stand, Brainly is the most popular education platform in the world.
So, a platform to enhance e-learning during lockdowns and stay-at-home orders seems like a good idea. When done right, e-learning can be beneficial, and platforms like Coursera and Udemy have proven that. This is all great and very promising, but it's easy for things to go wrong whenever the web is involved. Now, what can go wrong in a platform where students ask questions, and you answer them?
Having a look at some reviews of Brainly out there, I came across people calling it a platform promoting cheating. Meanwhile, the platform itself claims that its own highly ranked users moderate it. That's fine; I 100% believe it.
The obscure question here, is “what needs to be moderated?”
Would any moderation be a violation of freedom of speech?
Because, you know, at the end of the day, cheating is expressing an opinion for others to listen to or read when you are not allowed to. A cheater is someone who reads or listens to a statement when they shouldn't. Could someone go as far as saying that any restrictions on cheating are a violation of the First Amendment? As crazy as this sounds, we heard crazier things in 2020. You know, in a “free speech” app.
I want to present the two questions I decided to answer on Brainly, which will give you an idea of this platform's business model.
Impact on the Next Generation
I would not be celebrating if my future kids asked an elementary level question on a tutoring platform to receive a swift answer and an adequate explanation. I have no idea how you can regulate and moderate something like this in 2021. Brainly could have been a subreddit on Reddit. Instead, it is a freemium platform where you can pay for a subscription or use it with or without an adblocker. I'm sure a lot of people would say, “Why didn't I think of this first?”
The Ethics of Online Businesses
There is nothing wrong with Brainly. At the same time, everything is wrong with Brainly. Brainly is a business that essentially promotes the path of least resistance. It doesn't matter if it is cheating or not. You can pretty much send critical thinking and “deep learning” (pun intended) down the drain for many people who are not ready to use such a platform correctly. It is only a good exercise for people who want to train their brain (by answering more challenging questions than the ones above), by helping people who – in many cases – don't want to think for themselves.
The emergence of Brainly is just another sign that we are not ready for the age of mass information flow. And by “we,” I mean entrepreneurs, businessmen, and everyone who tries to profit by providing 100% legal services but 0% ethical. However, if we try to spin this in the most nihilistic and vain way, what is the difference between not doing the homework at all and getting the answer in class compared to reading it online?
It boils down to this. Solving the puzzle is optional. Thinking about possible solutions is a requirement. Filling your brain with your thoughts instead of someone else's seems like a great idea. Otherwise, you will end up accusing others of manipulating you instead of holding yourself accountable, not in Math or English, but in life itself.
Online Ethics – Blogging
After nine months as a blogger – 9 successful months, to be precise (more on that soon) – I have bent every rule to achieve success. But I am not the only one. All my competitors do the same thing. I've been wondering whether this is the right thing to do, but I still do it. Why? Because it works. A lot of us contribute towards driving people into directions that should be avoided. As an example, my blog features Pet Master and Coin Master, two social casino games. Am I promoting gambling? I believe I do. But the profit that will come for me eventually outweighs the effect these apps have on other people.
I'm afraid that bending the rules (essentially cheating) is becoming more and more of a requirement to achieve success. On pure quality alone, this blog could have been first on many search keywords. It isn't because other people cheated their way towards gaining authority. I do the same thing. Brainly does the same thing in a different setting.
Where does all this end and where does it lead?
Is using Brainly cheating?
This is Brainly's answer: “Brainly is a place for students to share and explore knowledge together as a community. Our Honor Code does not allow cheating, plagiarism, or other violations of academic integrity.” I have been in Academia for 14 years, and enforcing an Honor Code is quite a complicated task. In Brainly's case, though, how can you prevent cheating when just asking the question is cheating? This sounds like a statement with no substance for me.
Is Brainly free?
You can always access most of the content and features available on Brainly for free. A Brainly subscription gives you access to Verified Answers.
How much does Brainly cost?
The Semi-Annual subscription plan costs $18, which is billed every 6 months unless canceled. The Annual subscription plan costs $24, which is billed once annually unless canceled. This option averages out to $2 per month.
How does Brainly make money?
Brainly makes money from its subscription plans and showing ads on it website.
Can you get paid on Brainly?
No. You can earn points by answering questions, but you cannot trade those points for money.
Can I get a refund from Brainly?
No. All payments in Brainly are final and it does not have a refund policy.