War erupts over stolen SA tweets

2013-10-24 12:45

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Cape Town - A war has erupted over the alleged theft of tweets in South African business reporting.

According to a report on Mybroadband, Business Day TV complained that rivals CNBC Africa had copied tweets relating to the former's pronouncement on the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.

A Business Day tweet on the spending on debt service was copied by CNBC Africa without giving credit or retweeting from Business Day.

CNBC apologised, and blamed the tweet on an intern.

The issue has highlighted the fragile state of news reporting in an online environment where sharing of information has created an atmosphere of content producers feeling that they being taken advantage of.

Some organisations have appealed to the courts to limit the ability of so-called news aggregators to be able to share content, but the law has not been properly tested, especially as far as sharing on social networks is concerned.

Academic plagiarism

In academia, the issue of plagiarism is more clearly defined and there have been examples of academics who have passed off the work of others as their own.

Researcher Shao Yiming was charged with plagiarism after publishing a paper in the Lancet. It is alleged that the researcher used the work of several authors without permission.

On social networks like Twitter, the sharing of information makes charges of plagiarism a gray area because the information is submitted on a public platform.

Social media experts have said that social network users should be aware of the repercussions their statements can have.

"I think that social media users need to wise up a little; they need to become a little bit more sensible as digital citizens," social media consultant for Afrosocialmedia Samantha Fleming told News24.

The relative anonymity of the internet also plays a role in what people choose to say online.

"The first and most noticeable is that people do things and say things in the online world that they would never do or say in the real world. People hide behind what they think is the anonymity of the internet to say things they would never say in the real world," said Webber Wentzel social media lawyer Emma Sadleir.
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