How to Spot Content Theft on Social Media and Elsewhere
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
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.
- No attribution, credits or proper context. The “source” link is often misleading
- “Source” hosted on blogger.com/blogspot.com or another crappy free hosting platform
- Site linked is full of ads above the fold, you have to scroll to see the actual content
- Large list of images from one source apparently you have to scroll down forever
- No attribution to artist or source, or something like “Images found at Flickr” with no links
- Very broad description like “interesting images“, “fun stuff”, “cool art”, “creative design”
- No name of blog author or journalist to be found – about page is often missing altogether
- 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
- Content promoted on social media numerous times already, often by the same user or group of people or users with no avatar/real identity
- Spelling errors in the description and use of simplistic language
- 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 blogger.com are content thieves etc. but WordPress.com 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
We’ve had our content stolen on more than one occasion, often with circumstances similar the ones you mentioned – like no way of identifying who they are – or above the fold etc…and we were never credited.
While we cover our fair share of stories that have been covered elsewhere, we always link to the sources and make mention that we read the original article on what ever site. But we always write our own version of events – we never copy/paste articles taken from other sites.
And as we write our own original content, having it stolen is a bit of a downer. So it inspired me to dream up this method which will certainly discourage copy theft.
‘Plagiarism Today’ even thought the idea had good potential and they blogged about it (http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2008/06/12/using-css-to-thwart-content-theft/)
I just stole this
Your blog is very informative and helpful. keep it up
Jason: What about simply citing and attributing the source? Very simple measures every blogging newbie is able to master.
seema: Thank you, try to add some value to the post next time instead of just flattering as you sound like a bot. I will delete your comment tomorrow unless you prove that you’re not a spam bot by writing something less bot-like.
Content theft is indeed a major issue on social news sites. Fortunately, there are several things to consider.
First, all major social news sites have a means to report and get such articles removed. Though that requires the copyright holder be aware of the infringement, it can be done when needed. That makes it important for copyright holders to track their own work and be active in getting said content removed.
Second, you are right that the best method is to simply not vote for infringing works, but it can be very tricky, especially when some small blogs are able to post great content. However, if there is a suspected case of infringement, I encourage users to report not just the site and the link, but the person submitting it to higher ups at the site. Even if they don’t take action, they area aware of the concern and can follow up if it continues to happen.
Some users make it their livelihood to spam infringing links to these social news sites and that hurts everyone.
Finally, I don’t think that the problem is limited to SU or Mixx. I’ve seen it heavily on Digg and other sites as well. Anywhere there is traffic to be gained by reaching the front page, there are spammers and scrapers trying to exploit.
Thank you for the great article on this topic!
save images i like > upload them to my site > post it without permission & add original source in the post
this process is not stealing right?
Yeah Pat, exactly, among others. Sometimes you can’t get permission quickly enough but an attribution with a link is always a way of fair use. Also you might take just one image and make it smaller instead of taking a dozen and “making money online” off it with Adsense and lots of crappy ads.
I notice that whenever I submit one of my post to Digg, it ends up on a splog. I figure it is not worth the effort any more since I really do not get too many visitors from that site even though I try to “play by the rules” and vote for good content myself.