Grifters. They’re Everywhere.

Kitanya Responds to Comments — 41

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This week, I wrote about the frustration of having one of my essays copy-and-pasted by CityWatch LA. Piracy is rampant on the internet, and it’s not the first time my work has been lifted, and I don’t think it will be the last.

Ezinne Ukoha shared:

Wow. I can relate to this! This is what got me into trouble with Huffington Post back when the editors would scour Medium for viral pieces and I was always approached for permission to repost. I stupidly thought it would be a great idea since I needed the exposure, but I soon realized that I was contributing to the “waste management” atmosphere that we’re currently enduring.

I’ve seen my work reproduced without my knowledge and it’s outright theft! I’m so exhausted by it all. But I’m glad you shared this — it needs to be said!

I’ve had a few incredibly presumptuous requests (bordering on demands sometimes) to republish my pieces, nearly always in exchange for “exposure.” It’s a scam. A way for these publications to build their brands and charge more for advertising without having to pay for the labor that’s adding all the value. A single viral piece has helped launched some writers’ careers, but that’s not the case for most of us. Building an audience is attritional — battling it out to produce quality work at a decent clip and trying to forge a lasting connection. It makes the thievery even more maddening. It completely cheapens peoples work.

I see more writers standing up for themselves and demanding to be paid, and I’m hoping it’s a larger trend, and not just something I’ve accidentally curated on my Twitter feed.

Sherry Kappel shared:

So here’s the thing. I do know that black women writers in general seem to have their intellectual property stolen more often, and you are an exceptional writer. When it comes to writing on Medium, however, there seems to be an entire industry out there that copies anybody and everybody’s stuff from here; I believe it’s mostly foreign based.

There was a big to-do a year or two back when a number of Medium writers found a ton of their stuff copy-pasted onto a few of these sites — all the way down to my random poetry. (I imagine there was stuff copied from other sites, as well — maybe everywhere? — but our focus was on Medium writers.) Between the fact that I’m not making any attempt to earn anything off my writing, it is indeed very traumatizing, and I have far less knowledge about how to deal with these things than some others here, I chose to let others deal with it and not worry about my own stuff per se. As such, I have no idea what came of it or what all is still out there, or even who chose to pursue the perpetrators.

I don’t think most people understand the massive scale of the literary piracy that’s taking place. When I was posting fiction on Wattpad, the same thing was happening. The site was being systematically scraped for content that was being reposted. I self-published a couple of novels and learned something similar was happening to indie authors who posted ebooks for free to intro readers to their series. They were being stolen, repackaged, and reposted on retail sites like Amazon. These are large-scale operations. There’s no way an individual can keep up with it all. We’re being attacked on too many fronts. There are publications like CityWatch that are looking for specific content, and they probably lurk in places like Medium to find it, then copy and paste it. And there are the giant, grab everything and repost it all and see what sticks operations. There’s probably a lot in between.

Only the Mediums, Wattpads, and Amazons of the world have the scale to deal with the huge operations. The problem is that the authors are the rights holders. Legally, the companies don’t have the standing to intervene on our behalf. What’s their duty? They obviously should take steps to try and protect their sites as best as possible from the bots doing the scraping — it’s devaluing their product too, and they should try to protect their users. Nevertheless, they just don’t have the same incentives we do. Medium was helpful when I contacted them, and someone in legal gave me his information in case something similar happens again, and I need help coming up with a strategy. They likely don’t have the scale to deal with everyone who’s a victim of bot scraping individually, though. I’m not sure what the solution to all this is.

I also wrote about scammer, Elizabeth Holmes, and how White Feminism helped protect her.

Maria Konner shared:

And what’s also incredible is that there was not a single person on the Board with Medical experience, otherwise that would have thrown a monkey wrench into their love affair with her. Or they would have quit or been forced out like the guy from Apple who actually had senior management experience in a technology company vs being an investor or involved with politics and Defense. And who is running our country? Nice job guys, hopefully people will trust your crusty management style less in years to come. I hope we can call this evolution.

So many people failed so many times to discharge their duties and perform basic due diligence. Did it make sense to anybody not to have someone with medical experience in a leadership position? This wasn’t an app to put funny animated faces on pictures or lip sync to pop music. It was medical technology. Getting it wrong would put people in danger. Why wasn’t this all taken more seriously? Why wasn’t it handled more professionally? The thing is, I think it seemed like it was being managed properly by the people involved, because they didn’t know any better.

What happened at Theranos follows the pattern I’ve seen whenever these long cons are exposed. People like Holmes are very good at spotting their marks, who ironically are often other narcissists. There’s a certain kind of accomplished person who can’t properly assess their competence in other areas. They grossly overestimate their ability to grasp what’s happening and make sound decisions. If you can appeal to this vanity, they become very easy to manipulate. Silicon Valley is full of tech bros who think they know what’s best for everyone. Holmes had ripe pickings for her targets, and it looks like she had a high success rate for things to have carried on as long as they did. Anyone who knew how things were supposed to run would have exposed her, so she kept them out.

Heather Wargo commented:

While society has collectively become far more “accepting”, the flip side is people are far less likely to say anything if something is not quite right about a “rising” persona in any group, especially in one capturing national attention, particularly a white woman who appears to check off all the intriguing little boxes.

It’s one of the strange things about this era: the viciousness and the trepidation. People can tell who will be protected and who will get thrown to the wolves. I think most people with influence calculate quite carefully who to pile onto, who to give a pass to, and who to protect. (Coincidentally, I wrote about this on my Patreon this week.) Holmes was being propped up by all the right people — powerful people — and it was telegraphed that they all expected her to succeed. Entry into those VC circles is highly coveted, and the gatekeeping is intense. Holmes made herself teacher’s pet, and it paid off.

Thanks for reading!

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*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: books2read.com/u/mBOYNv | IG: kitanyaharrison

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