What would you do if someone stole your Twitter content and passed it off as his own to further his business? It happened to me!

I was attending the PubCon web marketing conference and sitting in a session about web analytics. Google Analytics‘ Tim Claiborne mentioned some exciting new changes to his product, so I tweeted a quote from his presentation:

@jillyk's PubCon tweet about Google Analytics changes

Throughout the session, I’d been monitoring Twetchup, a tweet aggregator that tracks tweets by PubCon session, to see what my fellow conference-goers were saying. One minute later, I saw the following tweet pop up:

A plagiarized tweet from a fellow PubCon conference attendee

I’m withholding the username, but this account belongs to a California-based SEO business. The founder of this company had been sitting near me in the previous PubCon session. I don’t know for certain if it’s her behind the corporate Twitter account — but if so, she’s old enough to know better than to plagiarize.

Every single thing about that tweet is exactly the same as mine. The style of the tweet, most notably the punctuation between the quote and the speaker’s twitter handle, is different from everything else she’s posted from the conference. It’s very clearly a copy and paste job.

Twitter plagiarism? Seriously?

If you’re trying to promote your business as credible, professional, and knowledgeable — don’t steal somebody else’s words. It’s common sense, really. I know I certainly wouldn’t want to hire someone who “borrows” content from others and then passes it off as her own.

To make things worse, I continued to watch the Twitter stream as the copycat tweet got retweeted multiple times, even by the session’s moderator… And they all attributed it to the plagiarizer!

I’ve never run into something like this before, so I don’t particularly know how to handle it. Do I respond to the tweet? Do I call her out publicly? Do I call her out privately? Ultimately, I opted to take the high road and posted a public tweet to my Twitter account, without the conference hashtag (#pubcon) or the plagiarizer’s Twitter handle:

@jillyk's response to the plagiarized tweet at PubCon

I didn’t want to start a Twitter “fight” or stoop to the same level by directly calling her out in front of the whole conference, and I’d honestly like to know if any of my followers have had similar experiences. If so, how have they dealt with it? What do they think is the proper course of action? If there’s anything I’ve learned about Twitter, I’ve learned that it’s an excellent way to get the opinions and advice of your peers — and that you should think before you act or do anything that could instigate Twitter drama.

This whole situation brings up much bigger questions: is there a such thing as plagiarism on Twitter? Do you own your Twitter content? Furthermore, is there a generally accepted Twitter code of ethics — a type of “man law” among Twitter users that emphasizes common courtesy and ethical standards? How should we deal with Twitter plagiarizers?