“You sound bitter, Rose. Were you plagiarised?”


This post is a follow-up to my earlier post, The Ethics of Proofreading. After searching for this post myself on Google, I was surprised to come up with a few hits that did not relate to my own work.

Someone named “Muawiyah Haider” has ‘written’ a very similarly titled article, Proofreading Ethics (Tips to Proofread Translation of Other Linguistics)”

[sic.!]. This article appears on various sites around the web, each with a link back to her professional site – an otherwise seemingly legitimate company that is registered on ProZ.com.  A paragraph by paragraph comparison reveals very obvious plagiarism. Each paragraph contains serious linguistic errors, perhaps a proofreader could have helped? Muawiyah has posted this same article all over the internet, each article linking back to the same site. This has clearly been done to add “authenticity” to Muawiyah’s claim to be an “expert article writer” working for a “professional translation services agency”. So professional they plagiarise the works of other translators, indeed.

It appears, interestingly, that I am not the only victim of Muawiyah’s plagiarism. I recognised one of Muawiyah’s posts, “Cheap Translation Services and Poor Quality Translations”, as bearing distinct similarities to another highly rated article on ProZ, Cheap Translators Around the World, by Indonesian translator Ahnan Alex. Again, many errors now exist in the new text that did not exist in the original, and similarly, this article has been posted around the web. I believe that Muawiyah also obtained my article through its 4-star appearance on ProZ.com, posted via my ProZ profile.

There are many articles posted by Muawiyah around the web and I expect many were originally written by my fellow ProZ members. It seems Muawiyah simply looked at existing articles that were rated 3 stars or above and submitted to the ProZ articles section. I will be informing ProZ about this issue, and whilst Muawiyah (if that is a genuine name) does not seem to have an account, the linked website does have a ProZ account associated with it. Perhaps ProZ will have something to say on the matter – since in the case of the articles by myself and Ahnan, the text “Copyright © ProZ.com, 1999-2011. All rights reserved.” appears at the bottom. This is because we have transferred ultimate copyright for these articles to ProZ.com in exchange for promotion on the site.

So what can we learn?

Plagiarism does not pay

There are a few lessons to learn from Muawiyah’s efforts. Perhaps the most interesting is that Muawiyah’s website is still invisible to Google. I searched Google for the language combination Muawiyah’s website specialises in, Urdu to English, and despite a pretty self-explanatory domain, the site was invisble. Why? Google is clever. It searches for identical content, and if identical content is posted on different pages on the internet, it will be penalised. Links from pages of low relevance to the subject matter (“low quality” links) are also given less weight than, say, a highly relevant link from a client or colleague. Google also penalises sites that spam. It could be that that domain has used similar black hat SEO tactics (unethical tactics intended to raise search engine rankings), which can lead to search engine penalties or even being barred. The lesson is that plagiarising an article and posting it all around the internet will not actually help the website ranking. Furthermore, anyone who googles keywords from the article will come back to the original and discover the plagiarism (as I did). Potential clients who view the plagiarised article, complete with its repeated linguistic errors – typical of any rushed job – will only be put off. Note how relatively highly ranked articles on ProZ are now invisible on these generic article publishing sites, not least for the poor English.

But ethical blogging does pay

My translation blog is hosted on a sub-domain of my main website. This means that whenever my blog is linked to (and, thank you, it often is), the ranking of my main page goes up. Whenever I make a post on this sub-domain, Google likes that too – updated, fresh content is good in Google’s eyes. This means that my main site is now no. 1 for “translator German Nottingham“, for example.

I have also made countless enjoyable and useful contacts through my blog and twitter. Whilst these are mostly colleagues, it still helps with my online visibility. It is also great for exchanging knowledge and tips relating to my profession. Fellow twitter users can be a great help when wanting a quick opinion on how to deal with an unusual situation with a client, solving a software issue, or simply letting off steam. We also retweet each others’ posts when we find them helpful, increasing both our visibility and giving us that nice warm fuzzy feeling that we get from colleagues’ approval.

The basic tenets of ethical translation blogging:

In the style of the original Ethics of Proofreading post, I will summarise the main points of ethical translation blogging here. You may also wish to refer to the CyberJournalist.net Blogger’s Code of Ethics, which offers a more in-depth framework.

  1. NEVER plagiarise – If you refer to an external source whilst researching your article, refer or link to that source wherever possible. If you had inspired someone, you would appreciate some credit for that too, right? As you can see above, there are numerous negative consequences that may follow if you choose to plagiariase the hard work of another translation blogger.
  2. Link your sources – Similar to the above, this is relevant when writing anything factual in nature. This adds credibility to your statements, allowing and inviting your readers to make up their own mind.
  3. Be accurate – Be careful, insofar as this is possible, not to misrepresent your sources or other parties. Try to avoid quoting out of context as this may flavour the interpretation of the text. If there are any indications that the source may be inaccurate, it would be best to include these to give a balanced view. Correct any mistakes that later become evident.
  4. Try to give an unbiased view – This may not always be easy, as you naturally will have a positive or negative opinion on many issues. This is countered well, however, by declaring any personal interest or investment you may have in any subject matter on your blog.
  5. Give your colleagues a voice – Do not be afraid to allow comments from your colleagues, even with links back to their sites. You can benefit from their input and experience. It is well worth chatting to and befriending some, for some company whilst performing an otherwise very solitary job. We are colleagues, not competitors, even when working in the same field, in the same language combination. There is more than enough work to go round.
  6. Be fair and non-libellous – This is quite a general statement, but it is more a general reminder to be wary of your reputation and potential legal consequences anything else. Do not be scared of saying something negative, as long as you can back it up. Also be sensitive in your pursuit of information. I recommend the CyberJournalist.net Blogger’s Code of Ethics for further details on these issues.