The shortest version of the story: I have requested attribution from the owners and moderators of the website “African Union Diaspora” which is currently displaying several of my original blog posts (text and images) on their site and Facebook page without proper attribution or links to the original posts. The posts appear to have been scraped from both Diaspora Hypertext, the Blog and African Diaspora, Ph.D.
If you’d like the longer version of the “discovery” story, feel free to visit my Twitter account (@jmjafrx) from Friday, September 2, 2016. I’ve been living the IRL life most of the holiday weekend so the tweets should still be easily accessible.
On September 6, 2016, I sent the following email to the owners of the site:
My name is Jessica Marie Johnson and I noticed several posts on your site replicate original work created by myself and/or originally shared on one or both of my websites: Diaspora Hypertext, the Blog (http://diasporahypertext.com) and African Diaspora, Ph.D. (http://africandiasporaphd.com). For instance, one of your most recent posts was originally published here: https://diasporahypertext.com/2016/09/01/revisiting-new-orleans-cops-were-told-they-could-shoot-looters-sept-1-2005/.
This is plagiarism. I am the original author of this work and that requires proper attribution. By reposting my content without crediting me, you have committed an act of plagiarism. My website is protected by a Creative Commons License and includes a page on how to cite my work: https://diasporahypertext.wordpress.com/citation.
Please immediately update any posts you’ve copied from either of these sites to include the appropriate citation information–including my name, the name of the website where it was originally posted, and a link to the original post. Please do the same to the posts published on your Facebook page. Please do so by September 10, 2016 or I will file 1) a notice of Digital Millennium Copyright Infringement naming your site; 2) a Take Down notice with your hosting service.
I am hoping this can be resolved easily! I am more than happy to have you display my original content on your site, but it requires proper citation.
I am available via email to answer any questions: [email address].
My thanks in advance,
I am waiting to hear back. I have also:
- Updated the sidebar with –
- Prepared a DMCA complaint to file
- Prepared a “Take Down” letter to fax to their host Unified Layer and Hostgator if no action is taken within the next four days.
Until I hear back (or something develops), this is a public notice of what has occurred and a warning to anyone visiting that site or anyone who may be blogging material related to the African Diaspora and may want to check to see if they, too, have been plagiarized. Along with my own work, I noticed several posts on the site appear to be original content scraped from other African women bloggers I follow and admire.
So that’s the business part of this post. Now for a few things:
- Really? Lifting entire blog posts, including comments, keywords, and, let’s be frank, my typos? That’s soooo 2008. It hasn’t gotten cooler. In fact, in 2016, it is still annoying, boring and played.
- As a politics of citation, people have been discussing plagiarism online for a loooonnnnnnng time. Especially plagiarism of creative and intellectual work by womyn of color. I’m thinking of Mikki Kendall and Sydette Harry, along with a host of others, including folks like Moya Bailey, Bianca Laureano and Jacque Wernimont working with the Digital Alchemists and around the Creating Solutions to Online Violence Team (soft launched last week and which I’m very proud to be a part of–updated link to come). I’ve written about it myself here before here, here, and here. Plagiarism is a feminist issue, an issue radical womyn of color online have been especially attuned to and targeted for, and a diabolical villain to fight. I placed a list of resources at the end of this post
- Intersectional Loyalties: I wondered all weekend whether it made sense to post this and be so public about the situation. First, this is another African diaspora related site and I have a reflexive loyalty to black diasporic work happening on the web. Second, and probably more the case, the wholesale replication of my blog posts on the site makes me think this is a loosely maintained spam blog. If that is the case, drawing attention to it almost gives it more clicks than it deserves (Which is why I haven’t included the URL in this post and am, at the moment, discouraging readers from heading their way. I can’t think of how that will help get the content removed or updated. It will make this post clickbait for them which may even mean additional ad revenue…you get my point?). See but this is the thing:
This MY space. This is my yard. I draft, explore ideas, and share material here. I might be the only person visiting the site most days, and that’s fine because this is a WORKSPACE (a lab, a workshop, a black feminist weapons cache). And it is mine. If I want to bring a shotgun to a knife fight defending this little plot of internet land I’ve plotted, then I’m going to damn well do so.
I am also accountable to creatives whose content I share here. That material is now subject to plagiarism. The AUD site is populated with my labor and the labor of anyone whose work I’ve reposted here. That makes this not just about me or my ideas, but (wait for it) the network of kinfolk I find myself accountable to.
Last, but not least, even knowing all I know, and having seen what I’ve seen about how people operate online, the emotional labor of this entire thing surprised me. It is truly shocking and disconcerting to see even one of my blog posts lifted wholesale from my site without even a trackback, link, or author byline. Nothing. But it is actually a little nauseating to come across a site–spam blog or not–well populated with my creative and intellectual work. It is not easy to generate content for any site, even when the content creation is not on a regular basis. There is still creative and intellectual labor involved and it deserves its due.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying it feels gross. I mean….EW. It didn’t help that there is no contact information readily available on the site. Ann Daramola of Afrolicious suggested this kind of behavior is seen as a compliment in some corners of the African diaspora internets. I appreciate that context. And I do understand there are multiple and varied digi-cultural terrains, even among folks of African descent. But lifting my content is NOT a compliment. It is a violation. And it is a show of disrespect.
Thank you for those who reached out on Twitter. Lots of love, empathy and anxiety-reducing snark from WOC–I love y’all for that. K. T. mobilized the #blktwitterstorians to try to hunt down contact information on the owner; Sarah Jackson checked in on my self care. Thanks to a tweet from Ann Daramola of Afrolicious, I was able to find out the name of the site’s owner, but everyone who boosted my queries or otherwise responded–I appreciate you. I’m always surprised by how generous folks are with their time, advice, ideas on social media. It was such a small thing to those outside of the situation, but you bothered to pay me some of your attention, so I appreciate you for that even if just in the retweets and likes on a random Thursday morning!
Below is a gallery of the screenshots I took in the moment. Again, to avoid the clickbait situation, I’m not linking to the site. I really am trying to minimize the attention I send their way.
Some of the sites I found helpful:
- Center for Solutions to Online Violence (CSOV)
- Prevent Content Theft — Support — WordPress.com
- Copyscape – Banners
- Copyscape – Responding to Online Plagiarism
- Website Plagiarism: How to find it and respond
- Siteliner – About (less plagiarism related and more an interesting site that breaks down the content on your site for readability, repetition, and things like broken links)
- Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine can be used to prove your content was created first.