Saturday, 20 October 2012

TRAP: The Real Art of Plagiarism

Why other Facebook pages stealing my images really makes me angry

The "stolen" meme.
I am what they call a "blogger". I'm a writer really, but it seems blogger's the modern Internet parlance. I'm a "blogger" because I have a web log called Another Angry Voice and a related Facebook page. The reason I have a Facebook presence at all, is simply to publicise the writing on my blog (engaging with my followers is a derivative pleasure of this purpose). Profit is not, and never has been the objective for me. There are no adverts on my site at all. I write what I do because I feel it is important to make strong coherent arguments and I "Facebook" to share my writing with as wide an audience as possible (ughhh, "Facebook" as a verb, I can almost hear you wretch!).

One of the most effective techniques I use to increase my Facebook audience is to create catchy images called "Facebook Memes" (in internet parlance), to which I add a link to a blog post on a related subject in the image description. I strive to avoid using personal attacks, abuse, facile generalisations, or any other kind of  lame debating strategy in either the images or the blog posts. The reason I am so determined to maintain a reasonably high standard of debate is that I strongly believe that consensus must be won with facts and critical analysis, not with feeble polemics.

On Friday 19th October I created an image (see above) contrasting Boris Johnson's fiery polemic in March 2011 against "fare-dodgers" on the London Underground and that Friday's revelations about George Osborne's fare-dodging antics. The reason I created this image was to publicise a new blog post highlighting fresh evidence about austerity and fiscal multipliers, in which I attempted to build a coherent, compelling and evidence based case, using quotes from the OBR and the IMF, that George Osborne's fiscal austerity policies are primarily responsible for the double-dip recession.

I was trying to engage people with a non-abusive, calmly stated argument about fare-dodging, in order to draw them into the significantly more important story of how the economic evidence is pointing to the fact that "Osbornomics" is the cause of the double-dip recession, and explain to them that the case is no longer simply my opinion, or the opinion of any other "leftie", but an evidence based assertion.

This is the comment I left in the image description:
Not only is he a fair-dodger, there's compelling new economic evidence that Osborne's austerity agenda is to blame for the double-dip recession:
Please take the time to read the link, it is very, very important stuff:
http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/an-entirely-avoidable-osbornomic.html

Within hours I noticed that my image had been stolen by another page called "TRAP - The Real Art of Protest". A page with 120,000 followers, compared to my 2,000. I say "stolen" because they deliberately erased the small unobtrusive Another Angry Voice logo in the corner of the image before re-posting to their wall as their own work. Instead of using the share button to post the image so that my page and the link to my article would get some traffic, they copied it to their computer, deleted out my logo, then re-uploaded it as if it was their own work. What is much worse, is that they replaced my calmly considered words and the hyperlink to my carefully constructed analysis of Osborne's ideologically driven and destructive austerity agenda with this statement:
"Conservative Party MPs, activists and voters - rats would not eat their rotting cadavers."
The "Real Art of Protest" had replaced my carefully considered and fact based "protest" with a tribalistic and offensive statement about rats not caring to eat the cadavers of people with particular political allegiances.

Let me get one thing straight, I was a blogger long before I was a so-called Facebook Meme creator. The whole purpose of the fare-dodging Facebook Meme I'd created was to publicise the article I'd written. Had the article not existed, neither would the image. If someone simply pinches this image without pointing people in the direction of the link, they're actually removing my right to protest from the image, destroying the primary purpose of the image's existence and denying thousands of people the opportunity to see the link that the image was designed to promote.

If this is the normal modus operandi of "TRAP - The Real Art of Protest" page, I reckon it's no surprise at all that it has managed to gather so many thoasands of followers. Using the technique of simply pinching other people's images, removing the logo if necessary, jettisoning the original description, re-posting it as if it were their own work and then mopping up all the credit (Facebook traffic) for that other person's work, they can gather themselves tens of thousands of followers. I also believe that the reason I have fewer Facebook followers than I could have, is that whenever I come across a Facebook Meme I particularly like, I always feel morally obliged to share it properly, so that the bulk of the traffic goes to the originator page, instead of pinching the image and re-uploading it as if it were my own work in order to collect the traffic exclusively for myself.

I was obviously a little upset at what TRAP had done. Here is the message I sent them:
This the second page with 100,000+ followers I've seen blatantly ripping off one of my images, removing the important link that the image was designed to publicise then mopping up all the traffic that would have gone to my image (and my important link) for themselves. 

No wonder you have 120,000 followers and I have just 2,000. 

The whole reason the image existed in the first place was to highlight the link. Without the link, I would never have taken the time to design the image. 

By removing my comment and link and replacing it with your own puerile comment, you have effectively silenced my protest. The Real Art of Protest"? The "Real Art of Silencing Other People's Protest" if you ask me.
ADMINS: Please share the link on your page and edit the image description (of the Boris, Trains, Osborne image) to at least mention the link about the failure of Osbornomics.
I want as many people to see the link as possible, because, as I said in the description, I feel it is "very, very important stuff". I firmly believe that as many people need to see this information as possible. If another page simply pinches the publicity image, without pointing people in the direction of the link, they're actually expunging my right to protest from the image and in doing so, removing the whole purpose of the image's existence. Some bloody thing to do for people masquerading as "The Real Art of Protest".

I'm now triply disappointed: Firstly that the mainstream media almost uniformly ignored the story I've been trying to promote (the Guardian aside, who ran an article covering the subject of Fiscal Multipliers, but not making the precise point I had): Secondly, because the Labour party also completely missed the story and gave David Cameron a ridiculously easy ride at PMQ's, when they should have been using the OBR and IMF data to nail him to the wall over self-defeating austerity: And thirdly, because when I tried to publicise this evidence based analysis myself, someone took it upon themselves to remove the link and use my specifically designed publicity vehicle to spread the message that they believe that "rats would not eat the rotting cadavers" of Tory MPs, activists and voters.

After waiting for a response, I saw that the admins had been active on the site again, but without addressing my concerns so I then wrote another message asking the admins why they had deliberately erased my logo off the image and posted it as their own work, why they occasionally credit other pages when they lift their work, but not mine and why they are refusing to apologise or rectify the situation. They simply erased the messages.

What "The Real Art of Protest" did was to silence my protest, write something offensively partisan in place of my reasoned argument against Conservative party policy, use my work to mop up all the Facebook traffic for themselves, then censor my complains by deleting them instead of answering them.

What saddens me is not that they deliberately pinched my image, but the fact that some people on "the left" would rather just hurl ugly abuse than help to spread carefully considered, fact-based critical analysis. If stealing other people's work and silencing their reasonable, closely-argued, non-abusive, fact-based critique of government policy is "The Real Art of Protest" in order to soak up as much Facebook traffic for themselves as possible, I think I'll stick to whatever "Fake art of Protest" I've been practicing.

If people on "the left" see fit to erase a link to evidence based criticism of government policy and replace it with hateful bile, then I feel desperately pessimistic that the British political debate is going to remain the facile, dishonest, PR driven, tribalistic, voter apethising mudslinging pit that it has become over the last three decades and that there is little I will ever be able to do to change it. On the other hand, I'm still optimistic enough to be writing yet another blog post about politics with the intention of hawking it to the mainstream press as some kind of politics, the media and social networking meta-analysis piece!

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