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Excuse Me! That is NOT Yours! Put it Down!

Has your story been plagiarized?

By Judey Kalchik Published 19 days ago Updated 18 days ago 5 min read

Yesterday a friend and fellow Vocal creator saw that a deeply personal story of theirs, one that was a recent Top Story and one filled with their most vulnerable thoughts, was plagiarized and reposted on Vocal. Although they had already reported it, I went and did so, too, in solidarity.

Then; wait a minute. Hey!

Long story short: five hours later (I took time out for dinner and goodnight kisses with my hubby), 25 of the plagiarist's 52 stories were positively traced back to 21 Vocal creators and 3 Medium writers. (Yes, that only equals 24; one of the Vocal creators had two of their stories plagiarized.)

Of the other 27 stories, I identified most as AI generated (and unattributed as such, which is against Vocal policy), and I didn't bother with the computer programming one because: UGH on computer programming, I was tired and didn't care.

Oh- and one of the creators that was plagiarized? Why- Vocal itself, for its announcement of the Past Life Winners Challenge. (I think that is, pardon the indelicacy: pretty ballsy.) See that, in the upper right corner? Looks familiar, doesn't it?

screen shot by author 9/6/23 9:47 AM

What Did I Do About It?

Frankly- I was incensed. And then I go to work. I spent several hours on my phone (Pro Tip: use a computer, it's easier on the thumbs) checking the content this Vocal member (I will not refer to them as a creator) had posted, reporting each story one by one, alerting the actual author, and linking the actual original content on the fraud with a comment that it had been reported.

Why did I do that? Why did I do any of that? Because I am a driven person when I am angry. And I was ANGRY. (This is the persona my husband refers to as The Dragon Lady. After a brief discussion about my outrage, he fell peacefully to sleep as I kept swiping, copying, pasting, and mumbling beside him.)

And, also, because it was as addictive as playing WORDLE. Will THIS one be plagiarized? How about... no- that's AI. How about... holy crap; that's one Vocal wrote... mutter mutter.

What Can YOU Do About It?

Let me state this disclaimer right now: You shouldn't have to do anything about it.

Let me say it again, in caps: YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. Vocal should make sure this doesn't happen, and I do believe they are trying.

However- since they couldn't stop their own content from being stolen and reposted, I don't think they are as close to a solution as they should be. So...

Here is how I checked all of those stories.

  1. Copy part of the suspected content. Usually I use the first paragraph, but sometimes I'll move down a few if the beginning looks too formulaic.
  2. Going to the search engine of your choice (I used Google), paste the content into the search bar, using quotation marks before and after the content that you've pasted.
  3. Hit Enter or Search or Go. (Whatever applies)
  4. Check out the results. Often the plagiarized content comes up first.
  5. If ONLY the plagiarized content appears, scroll down in the search results to see if 'more listings available if similar results are included', and click on that. The point of this is that we WANT similar results to be included!

Sometimes you get lucky, TBH. Like in the image below. I chuckled when I saw that Tom Baker, the actual creator of the content could be seen in the opening text of the plagiarized post. I checked it anyways. Yup. BTW- you should check out Tom's reviews and opinion pieces!

screen shot by author 9/6/23, 9:25 AM

What I Will Do, and My Suggestion for YOU for Now

I am going to run a check on any of my Top Stories. I suggest you do the same for your own Top Stories. Then I am going to run a check on all of my posted content going forward.

I'm going to run a check a week out from the original pub date and then each week out going forward for a month. Then periodically for each Top Story.

Should I have to do this? No. Will I? Yes.

Heck- That's Not Even All

As I was checking to see if the plagiarist had been banned from Vocal this morning ({Update: just checked at 12:41 on 9/6/23 and this profile has been deleted. Thanks Vocal!} spoiler alert: not yet, but to be fair the Vocal team had a LOT of reports to go through today), I found another profile that had stolen Creator content... including one of mine.

THIS one, who joined Vocal within the past week: grabbed Top Stories, tweaked the titles just a tad, and ran the content through AI.... but I recognized my most recent Top Story just the way Mother Combs recognized hers. (My mangled intellectual property is in the upper left corner, Mother Combs is in the lower right.) Those of you that have been following my Guide to Identifying AI Content will recognize the upper right piece as AI generated; you will see it in the way the location is described. Yes- all of these were also reported.

{Update: 9/6/23 @1:14. The scraped and pasted story the profile below boosted from me has been deleted, so Vocal is moving forward with the reports on the profile shown below. Thank you Vocal.}

screenshot by author 9/6/23 10:29 AM

I wish I could tell you that I have an answer to finding these. But, short of EVERYONE reading EVERY Latest Stories every day, I don't. Of course, you could do that. But you'd likely want to be paid. You know, like an employee, like a Vocal employee perhaps.....?

Just a suggestion.


Here's the Intro to my Guide to Identifying AI generated content by sight- not using any program. You Can Find It! Each subsequent chapter links as you read them, and I have four more chapters coming. (I had to put off the one planned today because I wanted to write this)

For those of you on Facebook: I will record myself following these steps and share it in my Facebook group: The Medium Writers and Vocal Creators Support Group (aka 'Support'). Give me a day or so, though, OK? I have to do my day-job now.....

I hope you leave a comment and let me know: Is my explanation clear? Do these jeans make my butt look too big? What should I have for dinner tonight? Am I truly The Dragon Lady?

OutlineProofreadingFeedback Requested

About the Creator

Judey Kalchik

It's my time to find and use my voice.

Poetry, short stories, memories, and a lot of things I think and wish I'd known a long time ago.

You can also find me on Medium

And please follow me on Threads, too!

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Comments (32)

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  • Lilly Cooper9 days ago

    I agree, Vocal is trying to stamp this out, but the profiles are numerous. I'm not an IT expert, so the how and why of the algorithms is beyond me, but I think going forward, for the business to continue to be viable, they need a better solution for this.

  • Tiffany Gordon 13 days ago

    I appreciate all of your hard work Judey!

  • Donna Fox14 days ago

    Judey, this is such an important story!! I had no idea how ridiculous the plagiarism was on here until you pointed it out! What terrifies me more as that in your screen shot I actually recognize the most of the stories… Thank you for the work you have done and continue to do to fight the baddies here! This is a job you need to be paid for!! Thank you for showing us how we can check for plagiarism, I appreciate you sharing the tools!

  • Thavien Yliaster16 days ago

    I've found tons of work from famous people plagairized, even with their names being used. People think that just because You credit somebody that it makes it acceptable to use their content. That's not how sh*t works. Besides reporting the my friends stolen content I haven't found my content to be stolen yet. Guess I'm not important enough. Kind of makes me feel like, "Damn, I must really be chopped liver to these plagiarists. They only want the best if the best." Lol

  • Babs Iverson17 days ago

    Dragon Lady, you are the best!!!❤️❤️💕

  • J. S. Wade17 days ago

    Thank you Judey the Dragon Lady! ❤️❤️❤️

  • Atomic Historian17 days ago

    AHHHHH. Okay, now that I got that out. I think I'll message you with one of my ideas to combat this. And the plagiarism by proxy(copycats, that change just a little bit of this. And a little bit of that to get it to pass).

  • ema18 days ago

    My story was also plagiarized, thanks again for warning me! Now I see that the copy has been removed.

  • Doc Sherwood18 days ago

    I was one of the twenty-five, so just to echo everyone else below, thank you Judey for your hard work and vigilance. You've never been a dragon lady to me, but you are to the plagiarists and spammers, and that's what Vocal needs! Oh, and to answer your other question, tonight your husband should cook dinner!

  • Gosh Judey, you just do so much! I'm eternally grateful to you. Vocal should be paying you for this! Yes your explain is clear. No your butt ain't too big. Pizza for dinner! And yes you're definitely the Dragon Lady!

  • THANK YOU. I'll repeat in case anyone is thinking of plagiarizing this comment: THANK YOU JUDEY!! Your righteous anger benefits us all, but I don't want to take you for granted. Honestly, you SHOULD be paid a bonus for your efforts.

  • Again, thank you Judey, not only for your outrage but for the way you follow up on things & keep us informed. I honestly don't know how you do it. Do you get any time to sleep? And you're absolutely right about Tom Baker. I always enjoy reading what he has to say.

  • River Joy18 days ago

    Thank you so much for the work you do here. You are so diligent, protecting the community!

  • ThatWriterWoman18 days ago

    Thank you so much for getting the very first spore copy reported! I am a very grateful story writer right now !!!

  • KJ Aartila18 days ago

    Thank you so much, Judeý!

  • I hate plagiarism. Such a cheap tactic to get reads😆yet usually their profiles are dead and no hearts at all. You are very good at tracking down these bad members keep it up, we all appreciate it

  • Ariel Joseph19 days ago

    Scammers have nothing if not the audacity. Thank you for all your doing. The information is very helpful. I'm trying to get better at recognizing the unattributed AI and plagiarism so I can report these things as well.

  • VOCAL MOM TO THE RESCUE. Okay but honestly, Vocal has got to be finding a way to manage this? And the answer can't be Judey! (unless you start getting paid!) 💕

  • Hope Martin19 days ago

    You're a very passionate person. I admire that so much. I'm not sure if my work is worth plagiarizing, but I'm going to check my work. I wish vocal had a plagiarism checker when allowing stories to be published. I've come to understand it's AI that allow our stories to be published?

  • Kendall Defoe 19 days ago

    This already happened with one of my stories, but the way they copied it was so pathetic that I was almost flattered. Almost. Glad you are fighting back and giving out this advice!

  • JBaz19 days ago

    You’re smarter than I, spotting these imposters is a full time job. Frustrating as all … Thanks Judey

  • Donna Renee19 days ago

    Oof yes. I reported several from that “creator” yesterday too. I’m so sick of this. I don’t want to have to chase down scammers anymore.

  • Cathy holmes19 days ago

    Yes, it's clear; no, your butt is not too big; and may I suggest fire-roasted plagiarists for the dragon lady's dinner.

  • Yes. No. Chicken or Fish. You go girl as a dragon lady or whatever you wish.❤️

  • Dana Crandell19 days ago

    Thanks for all you do, Judey and for passing on the information. You may have covered this before, but do you find that "out of the blue" subscriptions from members with nothing on their profile pages are a red flag? I know that there are some members that are actually readers, but I get a lot of these "ghost subscribers" lately.

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