How to Spot Content Theft on Social Media and Elsewhere

A cat climbing over a wooden fence looks back at the person who caught it in the act. The look speaks volumes.


Content theft runs rampant on social media. It’s utterly annoying in many cases.

Sites like Pinterest are often used by criminals who capitalize on stolen content.

On Pinterest this often amounts to bait and switch – an ages old scam tactic.

How People Make Money Online by Tricking Others

Fraudsters lure people by using popular images and link to their only stores or using Amazon affiliate links.

Thieves who make money off other people’s work often use images or videos and sometimes also text with no attribution to the

  • original artist
  • photographer
  • writer

Content thieves make big bucks and they get away with it because nobody cares or notices.

Everybody just reshares due to the quality of the stolen content disregarding the actual source or rather lack of it.

In many cases these are duplicates found elsewhere on the same social site which were wildly successful before already.

Dealing with Content Theft the Right Way

As I’m an art lover for years now and I recognize many of the artists whose work has been stolen for advertising revenue and presented as “interesting images”.

I will then add the original source in the comments or reviews but to no avail in most cases.

It takes time to research the real source but people still share the stolen content in the meantime.

To make things worse I even engaged with a stolen content piece myself and made it popular on social media this way.

Algorithms love comments – no matter what they say – and thus “outing” content theft just contributes to its success.

Ideally you just report stolen content and do not engage with it at all. Instead I research the original source.

Once I’ve found the content creator behind a piece of content I share it from the original source with proper credits.

Why Do Even Influencers Share Stolen Content?

I noticed that even some of social media’s most active influencers share stolen content. How come? Why do they do it?

When I once notified such an influencer of the actual content piece in question he had shared he replied: “I had no way of knowing that”. That’s true:

people are not always ignorant or complicit – they just don’t notice that content is stolen.

Thus I decided to set up a list of signs that in many cases allow you to spot content theft on social media and elsewhere. Usually at least three of them apply.

  1. No attribution, credits or proper context. The “source” link is often misleading
  2. “Source” hosted on or another crappy free hosting platform
  3. Site linked is full of ads above the fold, you have to scroll to see the actual content
  4. Large list of images from one source apparently you have to scroll down forever
  5. No attribution to artist or source, or something like “Images found at Flickr” with no links
  6. Very broad description like “interesting images“, “fun stuff”, “cool art”, “creative design”
  7. No name of blog author or journalist to be found – about page is often missing altogether
  8. A Google search for the title or search by image will show several identical shares on social sites as well as several sites with the same title or image
  9. Content promoted on social media numerous times already, often by the same user or group of people or users with no avatar/real identity
  10. Spelling errors in the description and use of simplistic language
  11. No context, seemingly random posts that have no real connection to each other on the blog

When you spot content which shows these signs of being stolen just don’t share it or vote it up.

Of course not all bloggers who use are content thieves etc. but e.g. is much more strict in the case of content scraping or manual copying.

In case your content has been stolen you might also want to read the 10 ways to fight back content thieves post.

* Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash