In a very ethical way, today we’re covering the importance of ensuring the content and work businesses publish online always follows the standard ethical guidelines. Unfortunately now with the limitless distribution of online content, the invisible lines of best practice guidelines in content distribution have in many ways become blurred. The rise of “fake news” has many internet goers unsure of what content they can trust online. It has become so pervasive that Stephanie Busari presented a Ted Talk on the importance of delivering the truth and the negative effects of fake news.
There is nothing you can’t find on the internet. Businesses, organisations and individuals have taken their companies, beliefs and opinions online. Because publishing tools are no longer limited to professional journalists and editors of magazines, mainstream media and newspapers – it’s a virtual digital free-for-all. Anyone can publish content online now. But, just because everyone can, doesn’t mean everyone should; at least not without first being aware of the ethical guidelines. (And yes, believe it or not, there are guidelines!)
While we have been gifted with the freedom to share our ideas and services on a broad range of platforms, we need to be wary of publishing trustworthy and authentic work. All platforms come with their own set of ethical guidelines to abide by. This ensures the platform isn’t misused to publish stolen, inappropriate or offensive data.
Make sure data isn’t fabricated or false
There is such a thing as the World Conference on Research Integrity. I’m not making that up – because that would indeed be unethical. In all seriousness, this is really important. Research into research integrity and the responsible conduct of research is critical is to ensure that end-users of research-derived materials – be it Governments, Industries and the public, can trust and use the findings of the research in the knowledge that it is accurate.
Unless you clearly announce your piece is a work of creative fiction you must not fabricate or manipulate your content.
Ensure Published Work Isn’t Plagiarised
Plagiarism is the biggest swear word in the world of writing. To plagiarise someone’s work you have to steal or misappropriate another person’s work and pass it off as your own. Punishable by death for a copywriter; sorry, that was a major exaggeration; but really, it is considered a serious violation of honesty in both academia and digital media. There are many types of plagiarism, here are three of the most common.
Copying the same text word-for-word from another source without acknowledging or citing the source or using quotation marks.
Using precisely the same wording as someone else with the required acknowledgement, but failing to use quotation marks. Paraphrasing is also changing a few words here and there of a block of text but maintaining the original text structure without referencing the original work.
This also covers the ethical issue of duplicate content online. Self-plagiarism occurs when an author reuses considerable portions of their previously published works without attribution to the original piece.
I know what you’re thinking…how can copying something be an accident? With the sheer volume of content on the internet today this can actually be easily done. Particularly if you’re writing about a very particular and popular topic, your original piece of writing may unwittingly become flagged against someone else’s work as being too similar – even if you’ve never laid eyes on the other piece.
To avoid accidental plagiarism, or if you have a third party helping you write your blog or website content, there are various free plagiarism checkers out there that can scan your content for plagiarism before you publish. Try Quetext, or SmallSEO Tools.
What should you do if your work is plagiarised?
It happens to the best of us. Unfortunately, the internet is in the midst of a plagiarism pandemic. It’s a very personal and painful discovery to find that some douche has stolen your good work and is passing it off as their own. The best thing to do in this situation is to remain very calm and reach out either to the plagiarist directly, their editor or website host.
Sternly yet politely explain that it has been brought to your attention that your work has been plagiarised and published without your permission. Include a copy of your original piece of work – preferably with a copyright message at the end, and ask that the offending plagiarised work be removed indefinitely. They may, or may not respond in your favour (or even at all). In this case, you would need to seek the advice of a lawyer in order to take the matter further.
Submitting the same article to more than one publication is considered unethical. Multiple submissions can quickly damage your reputation as an author, and the credibility of the publication or website to where they were posted.
This is considered a serious waste of time for the publications you are submitting to, and when you’ve gone and wasted someone’s time…they tend to remember it for a LONG time.
It takes a little longer, but submit your work to one publication at a time – only moving on to the next if you’ve been rejected.
“Salami” publications or redundant publications pose a serious threat to publication ethics. Typically they are duplications of the one case study/research results or hypothesis with unique text only. Each duplication is describing different aspects of the same studied example.
For example, this form of plagiarism cannot be detected by software – making it a particular threat to the ethics of the scientific and medical online community.
Unique content on business blogs
As a business, it is very important to ensure content is new and unique. Everything you publish should have fresh valuable content. Publishing several blogs consisting of similar information will make your published work repetitive and deter consumers from subscribing to, or reading your blog. And believe it or not, search engines are not very impressed by repetitive poor quality content either which could damage your domain authority or rank on the Google SERP.
If you tend to write your blogs and articles in batches, don’t publish them all your site in one go. Stagger and schedule the posts so you have a nice constant stream of new content. Search engines and your customers will soon know what to expect with your fabulous content if you’re consistent. Choose a realistic, achievable post frequency and make sure you keep it up!
Internet Publishing Best Practice
- Make sure you research, cite and reference your material properly
- Use of any personal information should come from the consent of the person
- Gain proper licences and permissions to publish/cite journals and research papers
- Check ethical guidelines for each platform you wish to publish on. For example, if you wish to use Google Ads to promote content, it is important to check their Google Ads Policies as it could have additionals rules and clauses
- Disclose any conflicts of interest
- Ensure your content is not inappropriate or offensive in any way
Show Common Courtesy with your Content
Just be nice and courteous with what you write. Avoid naming and putting down competitors, leave that for politicians, it’s better to talk about what makes your products and services so great and to help people with your content.
If you put together a case study article on a client or affiliate – always run it by them for an editing pass before you publish, they can check the facts and make sure the piece fits in line with their brand. Other companies and writers are going to be much more willing to work with and collaborate with you when you’re open and engaging. Everybody has the same global problem out there on the web – we all need content! And heaps of it, so try to build as many relationships as you can where you might do reciprocal guest blogs or share each other’s work (crediting the author of course).
Want to create great content? Have great ethics!
Words are powerful things. We should be able to trust that the internet’s seemingly infinite content we’re bombarded with every day, is not sneaky and misleading. Honesty, transparency and integrity should be written into every piece to keep our industry clean and hold the trust of our audiences.
Just like in life, we get back what we put out into the world. If you’re above board with your content creation strategy and always keep it real, you should expect to receive the same treatment in return. Happy ethical content creating!!