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The Next Generation of Plagiarism Online

Updated on January 9, 2018
tamarawilhite profile image

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.


Plagiarism is moving beyond simply copying and pasting someone's content and using it in your school paper or on your own website. Plagiarism is evolving and growing as those who want to take the easy way out use new technologies to copy the work of others.

The internet has made plagiarism as easy as copy and paste - or scraping by robots.
The internet has made plagiarism as easy as copy and paste - or scraping by robots. | Source

New Plagiarism Threats

Productivity software now includes plagiarism. Why plagiarize yourself when you can buy software to do it for you or pay a monthly subscription to have an artificial intelligence rewrite the article ten times. Some of the newest AI applications for authors will draw from hundreds of articles on a topic and create new content that passes a plagiarism check.

Why use article spinning software when crowd-sourcing has driven down the price of written content to a dollar per hundred words or less. Post the original article or link and ask for a rewrite. Post the task 10 times to receive that many crowd-sourced rewrites. This is separate from the task of summarizing a blog post and then criticizing it.

Plagiarism has traditionally focused on articles. The rise of social media has created a demand for short blurbs of content like article summaries and promotional blurbs. Why write your own tweets when you can copy someone else’s pithy statement? Why beg for good reviews from customers when you can copy and paste someone else’s good reviews and use them on your website? Take someone else's testimonials, change the names, and paste them on your own site. It is unlikely to be noticed and rarely causes problems unless search engines register it as duplicate content. However, there are many ways to block search engines from detecting the stolen content.

Paywalls can block plagiarism detectors, since the site's content isn't readily available for comparison. And plagiarism checkers won't see the copied content sent out via an email newsletter unless someone posts said newsletter online. Plagiarism detection doesn't work when someone copies your content and pastes it into a school paper, unless they then post that paper on an academic sharing website.

Most plagiarism checkers do not cross the language barrier. If someone rips off your content while translating it word by word (or character by character) into Chinese, most plagiarism checkers won't catch it.

Online plagiarism checkers won't identify identify stolen images and copying scanned content. For example, an uploaded image of Mom's recipe, if typed up and pasted elsewhere, is unlikely to be caught unless the same recipe name is used and noticed by someone who sees the original file as well.

Scammers are using the images of others for their own nefarious purposes. The latest rip-off is taking a picture off a social networking profile and using it elsewhere. The picture might be used by a less attractive or older person to pass as a pretty young thing on a dating site. It could be used by someone intending to pass as that person when phishing for information or asking for money.

Content aggregates that host "best of the web" lists sometimes copy someone's article verbatim, not always with attribution. Your original article is now the older version of the newer article, and it may now reside on a more highly trafficked website.


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