Accounts Frequently Stealing Content On Twitter - How To Handle?

5 replies
Curious how to handle mass theft of exclusive content (including news, industry data and pictures) that has been happening on Twitter.

I run a news-oriented website, and all content is shared on Twitter.

In recent months, I have noticed that several accounts are stealing the information - be it facts or pictures from the Tweets - without any form of attribution

These accounts position themselves as "Twitter news sources" and target the same audiences, so they are actually directly competitive. They are also limiting the exposure of my original Tweets, which has a deleterious impact on link-traffic to my original site -- and thus revenue.

What makes it worse is that my account, for whatever reason, has not been verified by Twitter - so the lay person is not going to automatically assume that the material originated on my site. This hurts with branding and professional credibility.

Any recommendations?
#accounts #content #frequently #handle #stealing #twitter
  • Profile picture of the author dburk
    Hi deviateit,

    Intellectual property rights must be vigorously defended or they simply don't exist. It's your responsibility to assert your rights, no one else is responsible. You need to decide if it merits your time and resources to go after the offender.

    If the monetary value of your damages are great enough then hire an attorney and sue for damages. At the very least, you can threaten them with a cease and desist order, many offenders will stop with just a letter, especially if it comes from a attorney. If that isn't practical then look for other solutions, public shaming, beat their marketing, whatever it takes.

    Crooks and thieves are not likely to stop unless it is costing them more than they benefit, find their weakness and attack them where it hurts the most, Or, move on to another project.

    Twitter is probably not the best platform for posting copyrighted material, almost everything that you post there could be considered short enough to be fair game for Fair Use by other publishers. Perhaps your tweets should just link to bigger messages that are on your own website where you can control the platform and make the offenders go there to try to steal your content. It would become far more defensible that way.


    Don Burk
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    • Profile picture of the author deviateit
      Thanks for the reply.

      To note. Most content that is being stolen is directly linked to a substantive article containing more details + images (where relevant).

      In some cases, they'll just steal the "headline" of the Tweet. In other cases, they'll actually steal content from the article itself (particularly when images are involved). And if they don't outright steal the text, they'll screenshot the original article and post it on their own feed without attribution or a link back.

      So linking directly to the content is not really deterring the problem.

      It's also important to remember that I'm competing for eyeballs/follows/shares/traffic as well. So I still do need to put something substantive in the Tweet itself (as opposed to just a link), otherwise it'll make the problem even worse. My stuff will be ignored, while those who gave all my information away in their actual Tweet will get all the attention.

      Twitter doesn't seem to offer the ability to report individual Tweets based on copyright grounds, which makes this more challenging.

      The problem with the "public shaming" approach is that my brand is followed by a lot of highly influential people in my industry, and I worry it would come off as "minor league" to publicly complain about someone stealing content.
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  • Profile picture of the author TraderScooter
    The only real way to win that battle is to post unique content that has direct links back to your website (or other online property) somehow. If you make it hard for the thieves to strip out the links that lead back to your site, they will move on to easier targets.
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  • Profile picture of the author dburk
    Have you tried placing watermarks on your images?

    If they are hot linking your images from your website you can use a script that replaces your original image with an image ad for your website.

    Just create a nice looking image that reads "Visit For More Info", and automatically swap the image if the hostname is anything other than your own domain. There are a lot of little technical tricks of the trade to discourage image theft. Then just make sure your content frequently refers to image content making it unusable without rewriting.

    Here's an article that shows how easy this is to do:

    How to stop image hotlinking and bandwidth theft
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    • Profile picture of the author deviateit
      Definitely thought about watermarks, but I've always hated what that does to the user experience.

      There are admittedly also gray areas where perhaps I'll get a press/media license to post something but don't exclusively own the image. Sites like put their watermark on these kinds of images, but I always thought that was tacky.

      Hotlinking isn't really the issue, as they're saving the images and then uploading to their own Twitter. Most other WEBSITES that use my content (the ones that would be hotlinking) are pretty good about crediting.

      (Note: This is why I'm baffled that I haven't been verified yet, as so many major, verified websites actively cite us as a source)

      My goal is just for these accounts to credit, link back and/or re-Tweet: I don't want to make this a major legal issue. But I fear that will never happen without a show of strength. And the problem is that these accounts - knowing they post a lot of stolen media - have "backup accounts" in the event anything gets suspended. They're also known for working hard to get their rivals suspended. So there's a limit to what I can threaten.

      Thanks for reading my rant and for all the help!
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