Suppose you have discovered a user account that contains a significant amount of plagiarized contributions. There are hundreds upon hundreds of answers to check, and you are willing to do that, stretched over a period of time. (Although you ask yourself whether there is a point - seeing as there are probably thousands or tens of thousands of users on SO that operate the same way.... but that's a different discussion.)

What is the preferred way to report these?

  • Flag each plagiarized answer separately, as they come up (the current status quo I think)

  • Flag each plagiarized answer separately, as they come up, but point out that they are part of an ongoing series

  • Collect plagiarized answers somewhere (where?) and report them to mods when you are done

  • Some other way?

  • Plagiarized in what way, from another SE post or from another website? – hichris123 Jan 25 '14 at 1:59
  • Both, or either - it shouldn't matter though, should it? They need to be flagged either way, the question is just how – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Jan 25 '14 at 2:00
  • That last time I did this, I picked one plagiarized answer and flagged it explaining the situation and included links to several others. A mod nuked all of them + more. – Mysticial Jan 25 '14 at 2:02
  • @Mysticial yeah, I've been lucky like that as well (a mod picked up on the flags and delivered swift judgement). It'd be nice to know it's something we can always rely on (e.g. because mods can look at all flags cast against a specific user) – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Jan 25 '14 at 2:06
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    Is it possible to make a new flag for plagiarised work - where it would be similar to the 'duplicate' close where a link to the plagiarised content must also be included? – user246806 Jan 25 '14 at 2:15
  • @Amaterasu I doubt whether it's worth the effort, seeing as the original URL is relevant only for the moderator to verify the allegation (and that can be easily done in a custom flag) – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Jan 25 '14 at 2:21
  • @Pëkka ah okay, just a thought (a bad one it seems) – user246806 Jan 25 '14 at 2:23
  • sorry about that :) – user246806 Jan 25 '14 at 2:31
  • @Amaterasu no reason! This place is there to discuss ideas. If it were on SE's agenda to make plagiarism-hunting more popular, a special flag might make sense. But I don't think it's frequent enough to warrant anything like that. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Jan 25 '14 at 2:34
  • Ironically I was close to posting a feature request...lol – user246806 Jan 25 '14 at 2:36
  • I like to believe this sort of behavior is grounds for account termination, but I'm not certain. What I can say is that as a member, your job is simply to alert us to bad behavior - if you believe a user has been doing this en masse then a single flag explaining that to us, with some examples, should suffice, similarly to how a user has been posting a lot of spam or self-promotional material. But that's just my opinion - other mods may have different ideals. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 25 '14 at 3:00
  • @BoltClock'saUnicorn I agree that is why I suggested a means for members to identify situations where it occurs. – user246806 Jan 25 '14 at 3:01
  • if you believe a user has been doing this en masse then a single flag explaining that to us, with some examples, should suffice so a mod would then take the 2 hours to painstakingly check the rest of the user's contributors? Really? I wouldn't mind that at all, but is that kind of detective work really something that can be expected of mods? – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Jan 25 '14 at 3:33
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    If this is about the user that we talked about earlier, he's been dealt with. For users whose sole activity is plagiarism, you don't need to flag every post, just one. Explain the problem in detail in a custom moderator flag, with an example link or two as proof. – Robert Harvey Jan 25 '14 at 3:36
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    I cleared your active flags. A lot of those were on questions that could be closed as duplicates, which was a nice bonus. Keep them coming! – Bill the Lizard Jan 25 '14 at 15:54

I'll defer to individual mods as to their preferred ways of handling this... But I've handled a fair number of these situations now, and as far as I'm concerned, you should do one of two things:

  1. If there are a large number of answers and ALL of them are plagiarized, pick one, flag it & note that ALL the answers from this user are rip-offs. Provide a link to demonstrate. I'll verify this and a few others (it is not hard) and destroy the account.

  2. If it's a mix of plagiarized and original content, flag every plagiarized post. Include in each flag a link to the original. If you want to be really helpful, leave a comment on each post noting that it's plagiarized and where from. I'll delete the posts & let the author know he has to follow standard attributions rules.

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    This is my preferred approach. – Robert Harvey Jan 25 '14 at 3:35
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    So in other words, go through each and every one of their dozens, possibly hundreds of posts? – BoltClock's a Unicorn Jan 25 '14 at 4:48
  • Realistically, @Boltclock, if someone's top-voted and most-recent posts are all rip-offs, they probably all are. – Shog9 Jan 25 '14 at 4:53
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    @BoltClock'saUnicorn I think that cases when there are dozens, possibly hundreds of posts are worth bringing to meta because there's just too mush data to carry over flags then – gnat Jan 25 '14 at 6:46
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    @gnat I did that for a while, but wasn't sure whether it's the right approach, seeing as it isn't something Meta really needs to be bothered with... but it is nice to have everything in one place – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Jan 25 '14 at 14:22
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    The thing that's most helpful to me are "other" flags that point to the original source for the content. Flagging answers as plagiarism or users as plagiarists is helpful, but the thing that saves me the most time is if the source is identified. I have a workflow for searching for this stuff, but if all I need to do is look at the linked source and identify the plagiarism I can process these flags much, much faster. I guess I'm leery of destroying accounts flagged for plagiarism unless I've checked every single answer and can verify nothing will be lost if I do this. – Brad Larson Jan 25 '14 at 17:27
  • @Bob nice work! Hadn't heard of that. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Oct 5 '15 at 11:45
  • @Bob cool, that's what I've occasionally done on my own, great to hear that it's become a crowdsourced effort. Let me know when the next hunt is on :) – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Oct 5 '15 at 11:47

This is an expansion from the comments - one possible way is to make a flagging option indicating that the question or answer has been plagiarised.

A similar option could be, as I mentioned in the comments, to make the flagging similar to the 'duplicate' flag option - where a link to the plagiarised content could be provided - though I get that this may be more trouble than its worth.

Or, just use the flag --> other option.

One thing for certain, plagiarism should never be allowed and needs to be nipped in the bud so to speak when first detected, it is basically theft. If I may be blunt, plagiarism should be dealt with as severely as spam (if not more severely).

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