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fake news



3:32 am on Apr 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've noticed several sites on the Internet that just rewrite common news stories and then pass them off as their own original content.

Is this legal? I would assume it was, if so, why not just rewrite everything on the Internet and pass it off as your own?

How can this take place? Or is it common and people know about it?


3:56 pm on Apr 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If they truly rewrite the stories (not just paraphrase or change a word here and there) it is original content. You can't copyright facts. What you can copyright is the way the facts are expressed. It's often to the rewriter's good, though, to cite the source of the facts, since that tends to lend credibility as well as being good professionalism. Even better is to gather facts from several stories and write your own article. But rewriting an article with your own spin is legal. Publishing an article as yours if you've only changed a word here and there is not.

Republishing content as original when it isn't, is not uncommon on the web, but that doesn't make it legal. It also doesn't mean that people who do it never get caught. Some of the sites you see doing it today may not be around a couple of years from now.

There's a new element these days with the presence of RSS feeds. Many news site provide RSS feeds for people to use legally on their websites. So even some content that isn't original may not be illegal, if permission has been given for it to be used.

There are many threads on this topic here - I thought maybe this was something different because of the "fake news" title. If the news itself is fake, using it is not a good idea. ;-) And this certainly has been done, even by a reporter for the London Times who took the "facts" from a sarcastic parody and put them in his article, thinking they were real. (That parody page, of course, now has a notice on it saying "Endorsed by the London Times.")


1:18 am on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

What if they put quotes from articles that are only in that one news story, like:

orginal article from reputable news source:

Sheila X was standing outside the palace and approved of the protests. "I'd like to be inside that place and see what's really going on."

the rewrite by the un-reputable source website:

A bystander, Sheila X was in favor of the protests. "I'd like to be inside that place and see what's really going on," she said.


5:13 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

IMHO, that's getting into pretty sticky territory, where I wouldn't want to travel without a lawyer - at least assuming they're not crediting the source. Everything I've ever learned about doing and using research says to attribute a direct quote to the source. Even the narrative wording is very close to simple paraphrasing, which I wouldn't do without a citation.

Legal considerations aside, if I were posting that write-up, I'd want to cite the source of the quote for the sake of credibility. If I read the story on two different sites, one crediting the source and one not, I know which site I'd bookmark for future news.

But, in all honesty, all I can do with the example you give is reply in an "If it were me" manner. The reason lawyers get involved in the whole issue is that it's sometimes hard to tell just where the legal "line" is, and I can't say for sure whether that example crosses the line or not - but it's definitely closer to it than I'd want to be.


6:57 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

This is pretty much how news reporting works.

Think about it. Agency A (MSNBC, FOX, CNN, etc.) gets a scoop on a story and reports on it.

Most other major news agencies out there are watching. Heck, somewhere out there, they probably have a few paid peons whose job it is simply to sit and watch and read the news all day, plus watch the AP newswires, and report on any scoops the competition's got.

Within five minutes of Agency A reporting on a story, every other news agency of any repute out there has their own stories running ... the facts may or may not have been corroborated.

What I'd reccommend is if you want to report on news, look at several sources -- you'll probably be able to parse a better story for this anyway. This is how I handle news -- my area of focus is science fiction and fantasy, and here's how I handle a news story that a major agency's running:

1. Hit their competitors, see if anyone has anything different to say.
2. Hit the official web sites that might also have news -- for example, if it's a movie I'm reporting on, I'd hit the studio's website, the major players (actors, producers, writers) websites', etc.), and any official fan sites.
3. I hit the bulletin boards and forums where the fans are talking about the subject matter and see what they think about the news. Sometimes I pick up a few extra relevant links this way also.
4. Fact check as much as possible; I've got a small list of professional contacts, check various web sites that collect facts on movies to verify back history, etc.

And after doing all that, I can often write a much better article than you'd find on a major news site. :)



7:20 pm on Apr 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

This is pretty much how news reporting works.
Think about it. Agency A (MSNBC, FOX, CNN, etc.) gets a scoop on a story and reports on it.

Sad, but true. That is how "a rumor that they communicated with one miner" turns into "credible sources say that all twelve miners have been rescued and are being brought to this church to be with their families."


3:33 am on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Interesting responses... I suppose it's delving into the whole "what is journalism" academic angle.

Seems like an easy way to put content on a website.


9:08 am on Apr 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I would try for multiple sources, combining facts into a new version.
Where stuff is quoted directly, CITE ORIGINAL SOURCE, period.
There are several benefits:

1) Credibility and professionalism as noted by others.
2) Reduced risk duplicate content problems.
3) Suppose the original sources got their facts wrong?
Now you are in the clear having cited others.

Its beneath contempt to publish someone else's materials without proper credits.
I would also give an honest straight link back to the source. -Larry


9:24 am on Apr 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I would just like to clarify that "original source" here means "original reporting agency."

In your example, lcampers, Sheila X was not the "original source" of the quotation, even though they were Sheila's words. Simply saying "Sheila X remarked..." doesn't credit the source.

The agency that interviewed and published her words is the source.

You'd want to phrase it:

In a webmasterworld.com interview, Sheila X said, "..."


1:03 pm on Apr 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Interesting subject as this is my main area, re-writing news. I concur with Leva regarding the process he/she follows, pretty much how I do it.

I always provide a credit to the original source and you'll find most large media organisations do such as the BBC etc. if what they are reporting on comes via a second or third part vendor. It's good practice and I find gives your re-write more credibility and subsequently your website/newsletter etc.

I start off with (rough example):


<quotes>"It just came out of the sky, like a great big football," Mary Jensen told BBC News.</quotes>

Original source credited.



Maybe include a bit of external info that relates to the news item to pad it out.

A lot of sites don't quote the original source and given the speed of news on the web, what was a BBC exclusive (example) will fast become saturated news in the space of minutes if it's a big subject such as football (soccer) so it can be hard to trace the news all the way back to it's original source.

I know people who don't credit the original source of news and they never get pulled or questioned but it's always good to practice good practice in my opinion, to be professional and give credit where credit is due.


3:42 pm on Apr 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Some great advice in the last several posts - thanks! From the OP, I got the idea that the question was related to what competitors were "getting by with," rather than the OP's own practice, but even from that angle the advice is spot on. If taking the trouble to cite your source makes you look more professional than your competition, go for it.

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