The Downside of Success: Time Constraints on Recording Stolen Tweets & How You Can Help

TL;DR: Due to time constraints we cannot list plagiarists in the same quantity that we did before, because to retain credibility we need to document each offence that we act upon.

A few weeks ago, this account had about 1000 followers. In those days, and since the account’s inception, we followed back every follower to allow private DM conversation. Hence many of those followers probably didn’t care about our mission, but just wanted to add to their own follower count.

Since our work was featured in the Verge story on July 25th which was picked up worldwide by over 200 media outlets, our follower numbers have taken off so that we passed 3000 over the weekend. At the same time, we can now receive DMs from anyone due to a change in Twitter functionality so we don’t auto followback everybody anymore.

Now we have a strong sense that a high proportion of our followers do care about our mission.

Accordingly, the reports we receive have spiked; while at the same time people we call out for plagiarism are more concerned about the stigma as our name becomes better known. So a lot more people have started asking us why they were listed. And we feel we must respond.

How we used to log plagiarists: In the past we would take (for example) someone’s top tweet, do a twitter search on it, and list everyone who had copied it verbatim. Even if that was 100 people it didn’t take very much time to just add them to our list. We didn’t document the reason for every listing because to do so would have been very time-consuming.

And we are three volunteers with busy lives outside of Twitter.

I should add, we also always responded to individual complaints along the lines of “This person stole my tweet.” We’d investigate and if it checked out, we’d add the thief.

Very few people complained about being listed. This happened maybe a couple of times a month. If they did, it was usually easy for us to take the time (maybe 15 minutes) to search their TL and find a stolen tweet – even if it wasn’t the one they were originally listed for.

Since the article, much has changed. We now get asked maybe twice a day or more “Why was I listed?” And thirty minutes plus per day to investigate is not inconsequential. We don’t have the time to do that. And we begrudge that time because these people are plagiarists, so why should we spend it helping them? – especially as they, almost without exception, know they are guilty.

But we do feel we need to do it. Because if a perception arises that we will list tweeters as “plagiarists/thieves” without evidence, we can’t expect our list to be taken seriously.

How we log plagiarists now: Accordingly we don’t often do those “wide-net” searches anymore, listing everyone who stole a certain tweet. Today, before we add someone to our list, we attach to the plagiarized tweet an @ comment along the lines of:

“@{tweetthief} This is a plagiarized tweet written by @{author}; Please delete it per [Twitter’s TOS|request of the author]. #plagiarismbad”

And then we attach to that comment screencaps showing ideally the original tweet and the stolen one. (But we don’t feel we’re obliged to post the original — merely a version that was posted before the one we’re listing as stolen.)

Going forward, this means that if someone asks us why they were listed, we (or anyone) can simply go to the Twitter search-bar, enter “@{tweetthief} #plagiarismbad” (without the quotes/brackets) and the evidence will appear. And it will still be there even if they have tried to deceive us by deleting the stolen tweet before complaining.

The downside: This is time-consuming. Gathering the screencaps and pasting them, especially takes time.

So while we appreciate all input from our supporters, a message like “Search on [Funny tweet]. It’s been stolen hundreds of times!” is probably not one we will be able to act on. We wish we could. But that would be a full-time job, and no one pays us for doing this – nor do we ever expect that they should.

Reporting now (from our FAQ):

If you just want to add a person to our list, you can send us a direct message with:

  • Screen capture of the original tweet (including date)
  • Screen capture of the stolen tweet (including date)
  • @ of the thief (so we don’t have to try to type it from the screen capture)

If you look at the thief’s “Lists” and then “Member Of” you can see if they are already on our list. There is no point reporting them again in that case.

We do get a lot of duplicate reports; so telling us that @Menshumor stole a tweet isn’t news to us. But if you’ve taken the time to send those screencaps, we will post them with our text beneath the stolen tweet. And if you are the author of a stolen tweet, you can expect our particular attention. Again the screen-cap will ideally be the original, but if it shows copies that predate the reported “stolen” one, that is sufficient.


We value all interaction with our supporters. If you want to help, please follow the reporting guidelines above. Or you can simply search on #plagiarismbad, look at the evidence and if it seems solid to you, star or retweet it so the knowledge of the theft is disseminated. The landscape changes all the time, and our response in the future may also change, but for now this is how we are keeping up with the growing plagiarism reports. And we hope you can continue to support our mission: to see appropriate credit goes to the many talented writers on Twitter today; while those that would steal it are appropriately exposed.

The Downside of Success: Time Constraints on Recording Stolen Tweets & How You Can Help

2 thoughts on “The Downside of Success: Time Constraints on Recording Stolen Tweets & How You Can Help

  1. I must express my passion for your generosity for people who must have assistance with this particular niche. Your very own commitment to getting the message up and down had become extraordinarily valuable and have constantly permitted associates like me to get to their ambitions. The helpful guideline denotes so much a person like me and additionally to my colleagues. Thanks a ton; from each one of us.


  2. Anonymous says:

    The DMCA does not allow Twitter to be the arbiter here. Twitter is simply picking winners and losers, hoping that at some point, someone with a poor case will sue them – and they can get a declaratory judgement from a judge that modifies (or “reinterprets”) the DMCA so that they can play the final decision maker.

    It’s low risk, because if someone does sue Twitter, and has a good case, they’ll just comply with the DMCA complaint and let the case get dropped (and possibly pay a token amount of legal fees). The DMCA is now a rich-versus-poor game, where the rich will have their DMCA complaints upheld, and indie people are at the mercy of Twitter/Google for compliance.


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