Guest Post: The Jamaica Observer’s Tweet Theft
Last week I was perusing my TL as Jamaicans paid avid attention to the Jamaica vs. Mexico football match. Sure we came away with a draw (should have been 3-0, which is, ironically at the root of this post) and you’d think that’s what I’d remember most about the night: we earned a draw at the Azteca! But nah. What I remember is that The Jamaica Observer, one of Jamaica’s two newspapers, stole a tweet from DJBrucki. I’ve already taken this newspaper to task for its (expected meaningful) role in society, its product, and its ethics so I wasn’t really surprised though I was disgusted. A new low. It’s one thing when Murray steals a tweet from Clarice but a nation’s newspaper stealing a tweet? Just up and t’ief suh? What does this illustrate about how the rest of the paper is produced? What exactly is acceptable to its management? How are employees trained about ethics, ethics in journalism, and social media ethics? Folks blather on about privacy being an ancient concept and about content being free for all; I disagree. There are still some necessary boundaries that need to be maintained. Below is a succinct account of the events, including follow up by @kelster. Email addresses have been redacted and names shortened to protect privacy but those are the only edits that have been made. Of note is that DJBrucki has been unblocked by The Jamaica Observer’s Twitter account thanks to the actions of its more sensible and savvy employees. But a problem still remains that we should not forget.
Stealing someone’s content really pisses me off. Maybe it is because “cite your sources” is something I repeatedly tell my research methods students. However, this is something I stick to outside of formal writing. Share a cutesy picture on Facebook? I include a link to the source. See a tweet that I like? I use the retweet button or “RT”. It’s pretty simple really. For some reason, neither of these options was acceptable to the Jamaica Observer on February 6. They saw the following tweet by DJ Brucki:
They liked it and wanted to share it with their followers so they copied it and added two hashtags.
I was not the only person to note this on Twitter and several immediately pointed this out to the Observer. I am sure they had several mentions that night since most of Jamaica and the diaspora were following the Jamaica v. Mexico football match. It’s understandable that they did not respond so on Thursday morning, I emailed their marketing department to discuss the issue. On Friday morning, I received an email from G telling me to state my case. I did:
|Kelly <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 12:08 PM|
|To: G <email@example.com>|
I expected G to respond with an apology for DJ Brucki and perhaps state that they would discuss this internally. Instead, what I got was an email basically telling me that I was an idiot:
Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 1:53 PM
|To: Kelly <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
Are you insulted? Because I certainly was. Let’s go through this. First, G wants to say that the Jamaica Observer is a paragon of virtue – just yesterday, they retweeted Cedella Marley! Well, kudos to you Observer. You actually know how to retweet and give credit. Now do you know how to do this for non-celebrities? Apparently, they are not allowed to steal tweets. I am glad that he pointed this out because, honestly, I was not sure what their tweet theft policy was. This matter would be resolved quickly then.
Every idea worth having has been had thousands of times already, things like this has happen before and will happen in the future.
I don’t think I like where this is going.
Humans run the account…
I suspect robots might be better at giving credit.
The two tweets are similar but the tone of both are different. ‘So, when” is different that “Are we”.
This is where I lost my mind. Either G did not read the tweets or G thinks that I am an idiot. Perhaps I should have included credentials? Given myself a celebrity name? If he wants to talk about tone, perhaps, we should. Go ahead; peruse the Jamaica Observer twitter feed. Tell me how many times colloquialisms such as “just saying…” are used. But all of that is moot because G’s comment is simply ridiculous! The individual in control of the account deleted the first two words. That did not change the tone. I wonder what G’s operational definition of tone is. G didn’t think he had insulted me enough though, so he goes on to tell me that it is similar to ‘great save’ and ‘man of the match”. No, G, it certainly is not. He then gives me the “every idea worth having” line again. This time, I can clearly see it for what it is – patronizing bullshit. I tried to keep my cool when I sent the following reply:
Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 1:59 PM
|To: G <email@example.com>|
Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 2:28 PM
|To: Kelly <firstname.lastname@example.org>|
I knew that “point taken” was G’s way of shutting me up. I was too angry to continue the conversation though and wanted to wait to see what they would do next. A few hours later, I had my answer. My good friends at the Jamaica Observer decided that the best way to deal with this was to block DJ Brucki on Twitter. Yes, you read that right. They stole his tweet and then blocked him. I guess now they can no longer steal tweets from him but the rest of Twitter is a free-for-all.
This may seem like a minor matter to some but it starts with a tweet. Then what next? Can we trust that the journalists at the Jamaica Observer write their own content? Or, since every idea has already been had a thousand times, they are comfortable with copying from the Jamaica Gleaner or perhaps the less widely read Sunday Herald? Based on G’s email, one could simply change the first sentence. This would make the two articles similar, but the tones would be different. Someone alert AP, APA and MLA! We have new plagiarism rules.
Content theft happens every day on the Internet. I have seen major organisations use bloggers’ pictures, recipes and blog posts without giving credit. I have seen people argue that it is OK because “it’s the internet”. It is simply not OK and never will be. You may not have spent a considerable amount of time composing the 140 characters for your tweet or the 250 words for a blog post. I may not either. However, that still does not give anyone the right to lift it and present it as his/her own. It is absolutely shameful that a media organisation would do this and then act as if they did nothing wrong. As of Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 5 PM, the tweet is still on Jamaica Observer’s account and they still have not reached out to offer an apology. I will not just sit back and let this one slide. We need to start holding our media organisations accountable for everything that they publish and I am going to start with this tweet.
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