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Twitter, Plagiarism and Retweeting

Twitter, Plagiarism and Retweeting

Twitter_logo_blueIt feels like plagiarism shouldn’t exist on Twitter.

Twitter has made it easy to retweet what someone else has posted with the click of a mouse. So easy that it is almost impulsive and automatic, like it isn’t even a choice to do anything else.

This retweeting, from an attribution standpoint, is perfect. The original author’s name, avatar and formatting is preserved. The only difference between a retweet and the original tweet is the note at the says it’s a retweet and who it’s from.

But despite sharing with proper attribution being literally the easiest that it can be, plagiarism is a very serious problem on Twitter. We’ve seen studies that highlight how attribution erodes as a tweet ages and even, at one point, had a tool that tried to help users find other Twitter users who had plagiarized you.

However nothing illustrates the problem as clearly as what happened to Chris Scott, a writer and reviewer who posted a joke that went viral.

Though the joke, as of this writing, has over 22,000 retweets and 32,000 favorites, it wasn’t an immediate success. Over a month after the tweet was sent out, Twitter comedian Mary Charlene retweeted it to her 160,000 followers and it began to grow steadily from there.

But as the Tweet began to rack up the big numbers, as it spread far and wide it began to get increasing attention from plagiarists, who began to copy and reuse it without any attribution. The joke was also posted to other social sites, including Imgur and Tumblr, often with attribution omitted or even intentionally blanked out.

Unfortunately, what happened to Scott isn’t rare or unusual. It’s almost par for the course on Twitter and it’s a problem that’s only going to get worse in the near future.Continue Reading