Observations Fighting a Serial Plagiarist—True Story!

in steemit •  2 years ago

Steemit community worked together to bring down a serial plagiarist last night/earlier today!

Before I get to the details I’d like to quickly thank @minion, @repholder, @pfunk, @patrice, @summon, @riverhead, @ash, @klye, @corinnestokes, @drinkzya, @berniesanders, @smooth and everyone else who pitched in flagging down this user.

I also thank each and every member of our spam fighting team who spend their valuable time in helping catch scammers.


User @kapets123 was found to be plagiarisng content by the volunteer abuse response team. His post ‘Hello again, Sunny Thailand’ had gathered $1500 in payout and was trending on the front page when the community members spotted plagiarism.

To his credit, it was a well translated article from it’s original russian source. The post only had couple of hours remaining until payout and suffice to say it nearly managed to make it!

We pushed the community on Steemit Chat to flag this user we got 85 votes with @berniesanders as the final flogger number 86 who reversed his upvote and nuked ‘@kapets123’ to the depths of Steemit Hell!

As you may have guessed, it wasn’t easy! It took over 3.5 hrs to get this done after we confirmed the extent of plagiarism!

Honestly, to some it seemed like a witch hunt. But it shoudn’t have to feel like this when we’re only trying to help the community!


Remember this: If a proven scammer makes payout it’s less $$$ for the rest of us who work hard to produce real content!


Sadly though, we found this user over a week ago but unfortunately due to the high volume of spam at the time he slipped through the cracks. Ergo, last night @kapets123’s post got accidentally voted by whales.

Some of us who interact with them regularly were clueless how to proceed when our emails/chats received no response! I reached out to people I knew, who knew the whales personally and they said they have forwarded the message to downvote.

It was quickly evident that it’s incredibly hard for Minnows, Sea Monkeys, Dolphins and Orcas to reverse undeserving high payout plagiarized posts completely and bring scammers to their knees! It didn't feel great when the post nearly made payout!


This is what we learnt from the chaos last night and perhaps now we can make some changes:

  • Spammers have gotten smarter by the day and it’s difficult sometimes to identify the original source. They are not just copy pasting but translating etc.
  • Posts with 50 flags or higher need their payout reversed completely and account flagged down to negative 4 to 6.
  • Anyone with a negative reputaion below 4 should contact official Steemit support to get it sorted.
  • For now, I’ve created a steemitabuse-appeals channel to track abuse appeal cases. @smooth has been kind enough to actively monitor this channel actively and help these users.
  • Members across the board feel their work is being underpaid compared to plagiarised articles or identity thefts and scams that slip through.
  • Whales overpower everyone else in this situation when they upvote and aren't online to downvote plagiarized content when there's a dire need for them.
  • Despite votes from some Orcas and a Whale:85 Flags only took it down to $232!
  • From Minnows to Orcas, we’re all truly helpless if a big payout post needs to be downvoted in extreme cases such as this one!
  • We also realized that most users are only vote happy but not flag happy.
  • Some users fear that flagging a scammer on the platform may make them a target and they might get down flagged by scammers in return hurting their rep!
  • A vote from @dantheman and @ned shows their faith in the content. This poses to be a problem in cases of plagiarism where it drives people in waves to vote for said content without due diligence.
  • Ned and Dan, if you are reading this you need to be doubly careful whom you vote. If you vote a plagiarized content and it makes payout it puts a major dent in the confidence of the users of the platform. Simply because you are the founders of this community!
  • Content from new users especially those who refuse to prove their authenticity needs to be checked more thoroughly prior to upvoting by Whales and Orcas.

—with some inputs from @repholder

Who’s behind the voluntary abuse response team?


We are simply the active members of the community just as you. Our home is the steemitabuse-classic channel. We find, investigate and fight spam and scammers on site 24/7 at our time, expense and sleep!

As of writing this post there is no official Steemit abuse response team. There isn’t a need for one. But, we could do with more power to prevent misuse of this platform!

I’m certain that if Abraham Lincoln were alive as a Steemian he would’ve said, ‘The Steemit voluntary abuse response team is of the people, by the people and for the people!’

Frankly, he’d be damn right!

I request: @steemed, @blocktrades, @tombstone, @jamessc, @xeldal, @roadscape, @complexring, @val-a, @ben, @mottler, @rainman, @pharesim, @steempty, @arhag, @donkeypong, @tuck-fheman, @firstclass, and @wang amongst others to help us in reducing scams on Steemit.

We welcome your suggestions and hopefully the best ideas will get implemented!

Images Courtesy: Pixabay


My previous posts if you are interested:

  1. Dummies Guide to Using Steemit.Chat Effectively Everyday!
  2. Dummies Guide to Keeping your Cool on Steemit!
  3. An Heartwarming Story of Hope!

Follow Me @firepower


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I literally went bat shit crazy last night in steemit.chat to get this serial plagiarist to $0. A lot of people helped and thank you to all of them. We need to have something in place so this doesn't occur later on when we scale to 1million+ users.

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You should have seen my wife @corinnestokes. She's been talking about this account for a week now, getting all upset whenever they post. Glad to see the system is working. :)

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I am glad we are all different! I have a short attention span, plus I'm building a tiny Steemit universe in my car! Thank god for your wife!!!!

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@lukestokes I didnt know you guys were married! that's cool! :) I'm glad she's on board and helping out. This is just the beginning. This is nothing compared to what we're going to be seeing in the months to come!

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Yeah, I've been SO stoked to be doing this with her. You can read the story of how she got on board here. Steemit is the killer app for cryptocurrency mass adoption.

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Thanks for the link. I'm going to read it now!

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If you guys ever catch a serial plagiarist, please do message me! I'll add them to cheetah's black list.

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Will do! All hail Cheetah bot, the protector of original content and identities throughout cyberspace!

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Message you via Steem.chat?

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Yep! I am anyx on steemit.chat. If I am online I am also watching the steemitabuse-classic channel.

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very true.

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we know that if repholder gets angry...you did some shit. you did some baaaaad shit :D

Catching plagiarism that has been translated from another language takes more time. I've learned some new sleuthing skills from hunting down the sources of this user's plagiarism. New skills are good. More tools in the tool belt. So glad kapets123 has finally been downvoted enough so we won't see anything more from them. Thanks, everyone, for working together to put an end to it!

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great job! I'm glad you're on the case! do you have a rocket chat channel set up for this too?

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I just use the steemitabuse-classic channel for reporting this kind of stuff.

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Thanks Corinne for helping out! Looking forward to your inputs in the future as well. :)

Posts with 50 flags or higher need their payout reversed completely and account flagged down to negative 4 to 6.

I don't think this should be done in a blockchain level. But Steemit UI definitely needs a warning system that will show all posts that have considerable amount of downvotes.

Especially when the payout time is coming closer and user has upvoted that particular post, there should be some kind of notification: "Please check if this post is really worth of your upvote."

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Yes. I agree with you. Maybe the UI could have such a feature. We can easily build an appeals time and infact we're on it already to help wrongly flagged users. If the payout time is increased upto 24 hrs then we won't have to worry about the users having their posts flagged wrongly and losing out completely over it. It gives us more time to think and act.

Where is the fine line between artfully providing skills in translating a page to other languages and providing source to the original text versus serial plagiarism?

How is the community going to evolve this type of standard?

I, for one, appreciate people's skill in translation, assuming that they can provide original source and that the translation is better than your black-box Google Translator.

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Yes, I do agree with you. Translation is a great skill. I suppose the original text was never mentioned.

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I understand that ... but we are starting to police ourselves without always providing meaningful insight to other members of community of what they can do better if they are translating.

It's easy to criticize and say, "Don't do this."

I hope in the future we can create community guidelines that evolve and are more constructive in the long-run.

There's no reason that this plagiarizer, or any future one, if they would've linked to the sources, etc. could have benefitted and provided value just by doing 1 or do additional things that may not occur to some people.

I think it's great that we are providing community tools for combating this abuse.

But, I think we should change the conversation to help people realize how they can contribute to the platform as opposed to only pointing out flaws.

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The account has been serial plagiarizing for ages now. He is just advancing his methods with intent to not get caught.

IMHO If it was another account that clearly has good intent (quality original content) prior, stated the original source and that it's a translation I think it would be fine.

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Why does someone have to create a new account if their behavior changes ?

I understand, behavior is not currently changing ... but if it does, the question remains.

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The plagiarism I have seen just looks like Google Translate. No citation of original source.

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one thing ive noticed a couple doing is double google translate back to the original. it changes enough to defeat google search.

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I think one of the things youre missing is that it is not enough to merely cite a copied full text article. That is still plagiarism. Fair use allows for a cited excerpt of copyrighted material as part of a larger, original work.

Translating a full copyrighted work is absolutely plagiarism, unless such the author explicitly waives those rights.

Though i believe this law is just, thats effectively beside the point. It is the law.

Think about it. Imagine you wrote and published a book or scholarly article for which you recieved royalties. Would you be OK with someone selling that book online, with you recieving nothing except a footnote credit?
Or with someone translating it and selling it in china again with you getting nothing in return.

Add to that:

  • Bots are there to track down basic copy/paste

  • We will track down even translated partial texts aka. "cut outs" of the original text

  • If your a plagiarist don't worry, your probably right now under investigation...

  • It would've been nice that this "team" has it's own "witness" or a "shared" high SP account or a active whale that would help to flag down posts or the proposal at the end of the comment.
    Last night we encountered a problem, we knew about that post being plagiarized but, the "whales" that voted on that post weren't active...

  • For everyone thinking this isn't a big problem, let me just say this: A user recently with 3 fake accounts has cashed out so far 3600$ and is powering down on 2 of 3 accounts where he had success (still pulling out money). All this money could've gone to other posts/comments etc... But this user is now past... This recent user mentioned in the post above shows how much did plagiarism finding and stopping improve.

  • A personal note to the post:
    It's not anyones fault for voting that, not Dan's or Ned's or anyones, the post looks genuine, no one will check the post for plagiarism and do a extensive research prior to voting, so you can't blame anyone for voting on that... What need's improving is the reaction to found plagiarism for it to be faster and more effective.
    So "whales" should join the channel so that we have a quicker response time. You don't have to be active in the channel just, be there, so if a "lucky copy/paste fish" comes along, you will be notified with the all command.

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I wish I had something to say other than you've hit the nail on it's head!

I don't blame Dan and Ned. I'm simply stating my opinion—a result of my time spent on the site. We need their support at all times.

It would've been nice that this "team" has it's own "witness" or a "shared" high SP account or a active whale that would help to flag down posts or the proposal at the end of the comment.

Totally agreed to this. If a select few users could have posting privileges of one such a/c that alone would make a huge difference. It will offload work from several whales too. Imagine spending all your time on a chatroom away from the real world fighting spammers...

Most users in the community are only interested in whale bashing.. they don't see what they do or what spammers are upto.. People need to mature as well.

For everyone thinking this isn't a big problem, let me just say this: A user recently with 3 fake accounts has cashed out so far 3600$ and is powering down on 2 of 3 accounts where he had success (still pulling out money). All this money could've gone to other posts/comments etc... But this user is now past... This recent user mentioned in the post above shows how much did plagiarism finding and stopping improve.

Absolutely. All this has been a result for a tiny group of people accomplishing this. We can do it and we will continue doing it!

Great job @firepower & @repholder !

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Thanks.

Good stuff bro. Lemme know if there's any way I can help, sometimes I get too absorbed in my writing. Keeping the lawn clean should be anyone's job too if we're in this for the long run.

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Kevin! For sure we could have you there. Feel free to helpout in anyway you can. Thank for all your support and constant encouragement dude! :)

Good job!! The community needs to be a "level playing field" to give the entire community a chance!!

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I agree! Hopefully it'll get there with more inputs from users at every level!

Bravoooo !!! @firepower . Great teamwork ! I don't follow much in past days but glad to see your initiative is helping that much

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Thank you so much! This was possible with constant encouragement from you and others on this platform.

Posts with 50 flags or higher need their payout reversed completely and account flagged down to negative 4 to 6.

IMO, this would be too easy to abuse. Bad actors could easily get 50 accounts to attack others with. Even if you made some threshold of rep of SP, its easy to imagine someone gaming the system.

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I agree. This was just a suggestion but I think it can be implemented in some manner. If not into the blockchain but perhaps at the UI level. Hopefully, there will be a system in place.

I admire the work you do. However, I see that there is another way to abuse the system: small groups who vote for each other in the first hour of release, placing them in Trending and Hot.

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hmmm.... hadn't considered that. I was wondering why so many insignificant pieces were showing up on trending that had basically nothing to say.
Gaming this honor system is definitely something that needs to be ended.

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Note that the first pages are reputations 7 and +. If you check the votes of each article is often the same voters. Surprise !

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This isn't happening in large volumes and I think this too will change. Once we have more people on the platform a wide range of content will start trending. From the outset it may look like only superficial content is trending now. Also as is the case in any group of people. We all try to help our friends succeed. Networking plays a role here as it would in the real world. However, there are many things at play with the platform. One has to go deeper to see that happening.

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Thanks! :)

much appreciated as well.
I had read a few posts that I assumed had been copied from sites, planned to check by googling an except from the text (this will usually find hits with the exact sentences and phrases), but was busy at the time.
I'd love to help out. I'll be more active from now on and check more of the 'professionally' written pieces.
I truly love the Steemit platform, and want to make the best of it.

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That would be great and helpful indeed! Thanks. @corinnestokes has written a good article on her process for finding plagiarism as well.

Good job hunting this scammer. I'm amazed he translated a russian article, he's kinda smart

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Indeed! If only he used his skills and be mindful of the way things work here it would've been amazing!

I'll have to contribute more to the steemitabuse channel so I can get on "the list" you have there! Defiantly want to do my part in combating plagiarism and over all posts and contributors that will harm the platform in the long run.

Will be back at it and fully active tonight !

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Thanks man! Would be great to have you on board as well! We can do with more sharper minds contributing to the cause. :)

If whales don't vote for them they won't make anything. The ones with the power on here should think about who they are voting for.

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Unfortunately, it's not entirely their fault either. They are dispersing votes for newbies who haven't earned anything. With their limited time it's hard to catch all the issues. That's why we have a small group looking deeper into these things. But without whales this system cannot survive. We need them and they need us! :)

Translating is a valuable service and we'll upvote you for it. Just make sure to link to the original content there bud. Its not just for the credit but also for verifying the translation by third parties. This is especially important for scientific data and journalism.

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Fully agree with you! However, this is infact a relatively milder case... This has been brought to light because the poster almost made bank and with this post I hoped that the resulting discussions would lead to improvements in the system!

While I agree we should not allow plagiarism, and serial plagiarists really have little defense, I do think there is value added by those who translate content into different languages and they should be rewarded when they have actually performed work. Is there a way for the platform to manage this gracefully?

If you write a brilliant article in Swahili and no one reads it because, well... THEY CAN'T, and someone translates it to English where it subsequently explodes, everyone benefits from the translator's effort. We just need to be sure the original author is accredited and credited and as well, the translator get's some related amount. It is simply a matter of determining what is fair.

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Or perhaps - the translator who does not credit the original source is throttled on the system. Credits are debited and given to the original author. If whales that at one time up voted, and then later down voted, is the value adjusted downward later? Sorry, I just found out about this platform about an hour ago, so I'm still learning.

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All good points there!

If a post makes payout and then gets a downvote.. The payout amount doesn't change. However, if a whale downvotes it's likely that your a/c will get flagged down to negative 5 or 6.

I think some people don't understand the principles. If someone would go to the friend and take her most expensive designer shoes which She was working for in the last summer holiday, We all would say it is crime and it is disgusting, in terms of intellectual properties it is extremely flexible!!! I am happy to see taking plagiarism seriously.

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Yes. Let's see how things progress from here on Steemit.

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I hope it will be strict. Because without morale being set up high it will be difficult to talk about quality :)

I used to be part of alt.slack.sputum - spam prevention has been a part of my consciousness as a computer admin and a user for three decades.

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That's nice! :) Good to have you on board!

Great post. I think I heard about the post you were talking about in the chat. Also your points about minnows vs whales are spot on. We minnows have a lot more to lose by downvoting and so tend to avoid it out of fear.

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Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, we need to be careful but sometimes it's necessary. Keep an eye out for what's happening and make decisions based on your own research. That usually helps. :)

I'm new here, don't understand very well all, but I have some time and I like very much to do research. I can contribute with my Portuguese language knowledge, I'm here to participate anytime!! Great work you have done!