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Ask WriteCheck: Facebook Plagiarism

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WriteCheck receives hundreds of questions from students around the world about plagiarism, citation, grammar/writing, and many other tricky situations that may occur at school, work and online. The “Ask WriteCheck” column shares some of these questions, provides answers to help the inquisitor, and helps other readers who may find themselves in similar situations. In this column, a student asks about how to stop future plagiarized Facebook posts.

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Hi WriteCheck,

So upsetting: I wrote something on my Facebook page, poured my heart into it and, lo and behold, it was lifted and now appears as one of my Facebook "friends'" posts ... word for word! It is still on my Facebook page, dated September 25th, 2013. I cannot begin to tell you how upsetting this is to me. Worse yet, her friends commented on how beautifully said the sentiments were, and she accepted the accolades without explaining that she had not written it herself. What can I do to make sure this does not happen to me again?

Please help. 

Nadia

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Hi Nadia,

Thank you for your question. It can be tough to encounter someone stealing your words and emotions, claiming it as their own, and getting recognition for it. This is called plagiarism. In the “real world” there would be consequences for it. Unfortunately, this is a common problem that many people face in using social media sites and there is little you can do to stop your audience from taking your postings in this public forum.

A 2-sentence Facebook post is more apt to get copied for several reasons: 1) it’s short, 2) people don’t follow writing conventions 3) it feels more like personal communication rather than publishing content and 4) Facebook is a widely acknowledged public forum. 

For all these reasons, it may be best to move your original words and thoughts to a blog and link back to it in your Facebook. Blogging feels more original and authentic as compared to Facebook posts. It may be the case that by creating original content in a traditional blog, your audience will think twice about copying your “work” and will be deterred by that change of context.

Don't be shy about sending the person who plagiarized your post a private message about your situation. Include the date of your post and briefly and calmly explain the situation. Often than not, people don't realize they may have done something wrong or meant to hurt anyone. (See example of Miss Universe's accidental twagiarism)

Another good resource is Plagiarism Today's article that shares tips for dealing with Facebook.

Best of luck,

WriteCheck

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Published on by kennethb.