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Tracking uncredited reuse of a popular tweet

The other day, I saw a funny tweet by @gsuberland, and it got me wondering if there were other such bad-tech soldering images out there.

So I went looking, found a few, and sent what I thought was a stupid-simple yet somewhat funny tweet: I stitched together three stock photos showing the actors holding the soldering irons in such a way that they'd be badly burned. I stuck a super quick caption on the image, and off it went:

If you click the image link, you'll see the media has been removed—the copyright owner made a copyright claim. I could probably fight this on the grounds of fair use, education, or satire, but it's not worth the effort, and not really what this post is about. (If you're really curious, here are the three original images.)

The tweet, much to my surprise, took off like wildfire, eventually being liked and retweeted over 2,500 times each, and garnering 250,000+ impressions. I've never sent such a popular tweet. Today, when Twitter removed my composite image, I became curious as to whether it'd been cached anywhere (I didn't save a copy when I made it). So I did a quick Google search on the phrase "all three were taken to the ER" from the original tweet. What I found surprised me, though I suppose it shouldn't have: My tweet was reused dozens of times, and almost never with attribution:

A quick glance through the links finds that most are probably bot-driven sites reposting content from reddit or 9gag. Best as I can tell, the first uncredited reuse—taking my composite image and my text—was in this post to reddit's /funny subreddit.

From there, it was picked up by tons of sites, always without credit or link back to the original source. In fact, of 30 sites I quickly scanned, only one included a linked version of the original tweet: Make wrote about one image in particular (which was the first one I actually saw on Twitter), and included my source link. So thanks, Make, for doing it right.

And to everyone else, glad you enjoyed the humor ... maybe next time you could leave an attribution in place? Hell, who am I kidding, this is the internet.

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