Social Media ‘Plagiarism’ – a long and aimless rant

"Do Not Duplicate" stamp
Don’t copy, just re-craft it, and make it your own…

Sometimes I can get a little bit precious.  Like now.

I’m not the most active blogger or social media user in the place, and I often wonder what some other people are doing with the rest of their lives since they appear to be on Twitter or facebook almost constantly, but I see that it is something they are committing themselves to, for better or worse, and they are sometimes able to post some great original stuff, funny stuff, of-the-moment stuff, stuff that makes me think “oh, you are quick”.

On a couple of occasions I have found myself in the right place at the right time, and been in a position to craft a tweet that is a bit like that – a little snippet of biting text, maybe with a reinforcing image, that is just timed beautifully, and is ‘on trend at that minute’.  It really gives you a boost to see that little bit of ‘work’ get picked up and thrown around the cyber-world.  It is *validating*.  And that is something, whether we admit it or not, that all users of social media want, at least to some and varying extent – otherwise, why are you there at all?  So, I got some great validation when I posted this:

A tweet I tweeted
A tweet I tweeted

Now, I’ll re-stress here that I don’t spend hours of each day pushing hard to recreate that sense of validation with everything I ‘publish’ (if that is even what pressing ‘TWEET’ is).  I’m what you might call a casual twit, a casual blogger, and I use it mostly for my own purposes of ‘ventilation’…  So it’s mildly surprising that I’ve even noticed this, but: on at least two occasions, and multiple times in each case, I HAVE BEEN PLAGIARISED.  Not ‘retweeted’ (RT’d), not ‘favorited’ (US spelling), not replied to, but out-and-out plagiarised, with no acknowledgment.  And that PISSES me off.

It may not even fit the pure definition of ‘plagiarism’, but re-writing someone else’s ‘work’ by replacing words, changing the tone slightly, or ‘re-crafting’ a sentence, or even just deleting words accompanying an image altogether, is NOT ORIGINAL.  If one was to see some writing and think “ooh, that’s great, I wish I’d written that”, and then manipulate the words to make it appear ‘original’, then that, to me, is STEALING.  It is theft of intellectual ‘property’.

Now, I guess many would say, “Who cares?  It’s only social media.  Don’t be so precious.  What does it matter?”.  Well, it’s the principle of things.  Simple as that – it is a matter of principle.  If I see that occasional magical tweet, something that is so good and that I agree with, and wish I had written it, then I will re-tweet it, or re-blog, as the case may be.  This gives acknowledgement, it provides validation, it expands the original authors’ reach, and there is NO MYSTERY as to where the original work resides.  But if I were to RE-CRAFT that work and publish it under the illusion that I ‘invented’ it, then I AM A THIEF.


So, here’s some ‘evidence’ of what I’m banging on about – first, that tweet again, that I published about 8 weeks ago (under my ‘real me’ twitter account).  The photo is one I took in my lounge room of my television, and is captioned, by me, in a rather derogatory manner (you may need to click on this to see it full size so that the tweet text is readable):

A screenshot of my original tweet
Another screenshot of my original tweet – note my ‘Samsung’ television backlit logo at lower centre of the image

I was well happy with that tweet, and it got retweeted a bunch of times, more than any previous of my silly little tweets – my little phone alert was going sick for a full 48 hours after I put it out there…  And now here are a couple of the tweets that ripped off my ‘work’ without acknowledgement (and there were more, that had the image just as a link, or only copied my derogatory remark in relation to the PM [yes, I called him a ‘lying retard’…]):

A copy of my image - no acknowledgement
A copy of my image – no acknowledgement
Another copy of my image - no acknowledgement
Another copy of my image – no acknowledgement

Needless to say, I was a bit miffed.  I had to look twice, and sure enough, that’s my fucking television!  A simple inclusion of my twitter handle would be more than adequate to provide acknowledgment and a link to the the original.  Not too much to ask…




OK, so the other day, our glorious leader (PM Fuckwit Abbort) decided it would be a rollicking good time for all of us if we took a step back to the 18th century and re-instated some monarchy-based honourifics – knighthoods and dameships.  For those of you not in Australia – YES, this shit really happened, is happening today (new Governor-General being knighted, outgoing GG being damed), and I apologise for our ridiculousness here, I am sure it will all be expunged as soon as sanity returns to our fair shores.  Anyway, I was out and about, listening to some news radio when the announcement was made about knights and dames, and I immediately had the thought, “oh, you’re fucking kidding, surely.  What’s next, a return to the imperial system?”, and then thought, I might just craft a tweet about that.  So I did:

My tweet about the metric system being repealed
My ORIGINAL tweet about the metric system being repealed


Lo, and behold!, a little later that day, I see this:

A re-crafted version of my tweet
A re-crafted version of my tweet

Now, I know that sometimes different people, at different times, sometimes at the same time, can come up with the same idea about the same thing (for example, I have invented several things, [at least in my head, but sometimes I’ve written it down or sketched it] only to discover later that someone else has beaten me to it…).  But this is not the first time that @<redacted> has taken a tweet of mine and re-crafted it.  He did a similar thing with the previous ‘lying retard’ tweet; said something derogatory about the PM and used a link,  instead of embedding it, to an image of my television, that I took with my camera in my house.  The same dude has a fairly massive following on Twitter (including me, we follow each other), and is, I believe, a respected independent journalist, and here’s little-fish me in my dingy little corner of the web-iverse, and so he has no reason to plagiarise anything, he quite frequently creates his own worthy stuff that gets picked up and passed around…  In this instance, he got a broader reach than me, retweeted over 10 times more than mine, that’s just the way our respective numbers stack up (he has about 9 times more followers than I do); plus, I tweeted mine when I thought of it, whereas he tweeted his (probably) when he thought he would get higher exposure (between 9pm to midnight is generally when Australian twitter activity goes hotwire).  I don’t really play that game…  Probably to my detriment…

Anyway, plagiarism is theft, whether it’s on social media or not.  So, either make up your own shit, or stop stealing ‘your’ ‘work’.




4 thoughts on “Social Media ‘Plagiarism’ – a long and aimless rant

  1. So glad none of the tweets I pinched from you were here …phew… just kidding. I know what you’re saying. I have a habit of making dodgy pictures with a lot of cut and paste in Paint and Publisher and forgetting to put my twitter handle somewhere on them.. I’m no graphic artist but I am proud of the things I make. I often see my pics reappear in the twittersphere with no attribution. One that comes to mind is a picture of Tony Abbott on his bike and a long list of his questionable travel claims beside him. Finally in BIG WRITING the final figure of $93949. While I am always happy that my message is getting out I do get a bit miffed that there’s no attribution.


    1. Sprung!
      Ah yes, the old twitter handle down in the corner or as a watermark. A good idea, and I should do that as a rule, but I find at least half the time I am ‘publishing’ from my phone, so it’s a bit harder to get all graphic-design-ey – but I will check out the possibilities.
      I too am happy to see my stuff get around, and maybe there is some room for me to relax on twitter, but when the shoe is on the other foot, I always make an effort to attribute appropriately, even if sometimes that is in retrospect (I’ve done that with a reblog of one of your posts – the twitter ‘publicize’ feature doesn’t give an option to edit the tweet, so I had to retroactively assign authorship of the previous tweet…).
      Thanks for swinging by!


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