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How should I act if I discover a user plagiarizing fellow users' answers? What if I find someone plagiarizing external resources without attribution?

See also: Users are calling me a plagiarist. What do I do?

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1 Answer 1

Important: Don't be a lynch mob, even if you're (understandably) angry. Do not pile downvotes on recently uncovered plagiators' answers. Let the moderators handle it - they will destroy any occurrences of egregious plagiarism, and may suspend the user for a while.

1. Double-check

Check again whether the OP didn't add a source somewhere after all. Sometimes it is at the end of the copied text, or hidden behind a single-word link. Check out all the links in the answer. Sometimes they get hidden by bad formatting - it's worth clicking 'edit' just for one final check to make sure.

Make sure that the original source you found really is a legit source, and not one of the ripoff sites copying Stack Overflow content (efreedom.us, etc.) or some other content aggregator.

2. Edit or flag

If it looks like a minor, single incident, editing the attribution in is the way to go. You can do that yourself, either directly or through a suggested edit. Put the attribution in front of the copied material, and put everything into blockquotes that isn't the OP's original speech. Use nice wording, like From the Wikipedia Article on xyz: After that, proceed to step 3.

If it looks like there is an egregious pattern of plagiarism, and deletions seem necessary, flag for moderator attention. Explain that you believe the answer has been plagiarized, and paste the source URL into a comment underneath, say Plagiarism: copied without attribution from ....

If your flag gets declined, flag again and/or raise the issue on Meta. Here is previous discussion.

3. Educate the OP

The OP may be innocent(-ish) simply because they're ignorant of how gravely wrong plagiarism is - this is the case more often than one would believe. If there is no indication the community has had a conversation with them about the issue, consider leaving a polite comment along the lines of

Hi, it appears that you copied this answer from (insert URL here). You're using someone else's work without giving the author credit. This amounts to plagiarism, and is not welcome on Stack Overflow. Remember to always add prominent attribution when using other sources. Thanks!

or a more nicely worded suggestion from JMort:

Hi User, it looks like you just copied most of this content from this blog . Can you edit your post and give attribution to the author? Plagiarism isn't really welcomed on Stack Overflow, and it's always nice to give credit where credit is due. Good luck!

4. Go hunt for more

Moderators have enough to do already - they won't be able to check out a user's entire profile for further instances of plagiarism. If you feel like it, take that task upon yourself, and flag each occurrence as described above.

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