When it comes to social media, we’re usually just concerned with getting our content out there. We want our photo, our video, our post to be acknowledged by our audience, that they respond to it with a like, a comment or a share.

What we don’t really take into consideration is that the more things get shared, the more likely is for them to dilute and move over to becoming nobody’s content.

Credit isn’t always traceable to one person and it is extremely easy to “borrow” content from a website and not credit the author –especially because in some cases like photos or memes, it is not always clear who the author is.

Our current copyright laws only take into consideration certain kinds of digital content, such as eBooks and music. But because now everyone is a content creator, it is harder to keep track of authorship in all modes.

One of the readings for my New Media Studies class touched the subject of quality vs. virality. The Virologist is an article written by Andrew Marantz and published by The New Yorker. It focuses con Emerson Spartz story, an Internet-media entrepreneur who at a very young age created MuggleNEet –a Harry Potter fan site– and has been obsessed with viral content ever since.

In this piece he talks about how he has developed very high traffic websites that rely on social networks to spread its content. He actually admits that it is because of these networks that the websites even have any traffic:

“Traffic is generated almost entirely through Facebook, so brand recognition is relatively unimportant. Most of the company’s innovations concern not the content itself but how it is promoted and packaged.”

Spartz also says “Our volume of traffic right now is possible only because Facebook has been very generous about linking to our content. I’m aware that they might not be so generous forever”

It seems that Facebook came to the same conclusion and decided to alter its algorithm to prefer more videos uploaded to their platform over YouTube links, which affects all website that uploads its content to this particular platform.

This video from In A Nutshell, a Youtube account that is dedicated solely to “videos explaining stuff. Made with love. And After Effects” shines the light on what Facebook is currently doing with the content that is shared there:

If users view it there, they won’t go to the website, which is a click they’re losing and therefore, is subtracting value from their advertising spots.

The other thing is that when things get shared on Facebook, they’re oftentimes modified and their authors are not credited. So the line between aggregator and plagiarist keeps diluting more and more to the point that we have so many so-called sources that we cannot tell which is the original one.

We, as prosumers would find ourselves trapped in a cul de sac. We want our content out there and the best way to do so is to insert it into the messy world of social networks, but these platforms –as well as search engines– want information to keep moving, so they don’t really make sourcing a priority, it’s messy and it takes up a lot of time that could be spent sharing more and more content.

So far there’s not really a solution for this, perhaps the best way to tackle it is by being more tech literate and showing those around us how to be smart about sharing and appropriately crediting the content we find online. We won’t see the result for years, but at least is a start and it’s a way to create conscience and get the conversation on online authorship evolving.


* Image courtesy of In a Nutshell


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