Plagiarism!!! Even the mention of it in your career can make your skin crawl, because it suggests such a complete violation of trust. If you’re a blog editor, business owner hiring content writers or even suspect your social media content manager of perhaps plagiarizing content, there is a way to satisfy your suspicions without irreparably ruining your professional relationship.

For those of us who are building our careers on public content creation, professional writing, blogging, and embedded journalism we must create everything on the basis of authenticity and transparency.

Everything we publish must be unique and honest. While it IS our job to promote other’s people’s content (sources, properly attributed), we are also the least capable of hiding stolen content, since everything we publish is promoted to a public audience, with the hopes of viral spread.
If only one person will see your content, and you never publish it to a public database, it’s less likely plagiarized content would be discovered. But of course that doesn’t make it OK.

This week in Toronto a major plagiarism scandal came to light and the head of Toronto District School Board Chris Spence resigned (with a $270,000+ severance package), after admitting to plagiarizing authors in his own post secondary education.

While he could truly be ‘mistaken’ and simply not properly attributed source quotes, it doesn’t seem likely anyone would actually not know about how to avoid plagiarism accusations at any level of post-secondary education or life maturity < simply don’t do it.

Metro newspapers this week ran a test where they purchased school essays on craigslist and found that while they may have been original, they were actually really poorly written, in an article called Inside Plagiarism: Ghost Writers and

A quick google search for “plagiarism checking tools” reveals a number of tools free & paid available to put your fears to rest, immediately:

These tools accept words and images copy & paste or drag & drop and will show you in minutes any potential online source of suspected plagiarized content. The free tool I prefer is: > it only takes a few minutes of processing to reveal the % of unique content and provides links to items of duplication.

The issue of “stealing” images is much more pervasive on the web, but the new MTV show Catfish (based on the movie of the same name) reveals Google Image Search as a helpful tool if you suspect you or someone you work with of Te’oing you (in reference to this weeks’ Heisman Trophy winning football player Manti Te’o who possibly perpetuated a fake personal story of a girlfriend with cancer, who passed away, in order to win an award in a more compelling and “deserving” fashion).

I admit, most of the images on my Social Sparkle & Shine blog are not my own, but I always try to give proper credit – like the image at the top of this post, the artist signature and web URL are on the image – I’m in no way trying to claim rights or credit for creating the image.

Earlier this year a scandal broke with a Globe & Mail journalist (Margaret Wente) who claimed to have forgotten to credit another article for a single sentence, but she was quickly ushered out amidst angry readers who grudgingly accept political skew in their news but still demand unique, intelligent, well-researched and honest business news from their business newspaper of choice.

Historically, plagiarism has been a problem, but even more often when scandal breaks, it’s for entirely made-up “facts” a-la Shattered Glass – Stephen Glass a journalist for publications ranging from Rolling Stone to The New Republic who created people, stories, and interviews entirely from his imagination and published them all as real.

For more, check out Authenticity and Transparency in Social Media.

By the way, after you’ve left a comment here, we can continue the discussion on my social media professional blog, Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Whitepapers and Playbooks referenced in this blog post are available free to download and share in my Social Media Concierge Public Resource Library on Google Docs.

You can also request to participate as an expert or receive a free assessment of your social media activities on my new social media business show, #SparkleSOS on Google+ Hangouts on Air by emailing [email protected] and don’t forget to add me to your G+ circles!

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