Is this Mothership article about an influencer promoting durian investments an attempt at deliberate plagiarism or just an ignorant mistake?
More specifically, let’s talk about whether large editorial publishing houses have the right to take a story that first broke in a small-time blogger’s website without proper crediting where it is due.
My first thought when I read it: HEY this looks suspiciously like MY article!
*looks around for proper source crediting to SG Budget Babe. Finds none.*
Let’s start from the very beginning.
On 19 April 2018, I first wrote about local lifestyle influencer @pxdkitty activities in promoting and recruiting her followers into making monetary investments into durian seedlings with a Malaysian company. My key message was that one should not be too quick to trust and put in money into any investment schemes recommended by influencers, whether it is lifestyle influencers OR even SG Budget Babe aka yours truly.
This then culminated in a full post on my blog on 21 April, after readers sent me the investment documents and contracts that they received from Rachell regarding this “huge investment opportunity” when they enquired. I would have kept the expose and my warning on Dayre itself, but some readers asked me to put it on the blog so they could share the web URL.
Her involvement here is crucial, as some of her followers seem to have already made the investment, made apparent by none other than Rachell Tan herself on her Instagram. Rachell was also actively replying people on her DMs and via the company’s email address, and kept talking about how great the investment was on her Instagram, IG Stories, and even went the extra mile to pin many of them up under her IG Highlights section.
All the evidence was only possible thanks to my readers, who had seen the investment “opportunity” on Rachell’s Instagram and sought my opinions on it. Wanting more people to know about this, they sent me the documents and contracts that they obtained directly from Rachell Tan herself, including the email exchanges. These were then reproduced and credited (albeit indirectly as my readers didn’t want to be named lest there be trouble).
Aside from studying the investment and company before I gave my take on it (you can even see the ACRA BizFile I spent my own money on to pull while investigating it here), I also got a lawyer to help look at the contract and point out the problematic clauses. Note that prior to my article, copies (or screenshots) of the contract could not be found anywhere else publicly. You literally had to email Rachell and tell her you were keen before she sent a copy of the contract to you. I tried searching but was unsuccessful until my readers sent it over to me.
I also highlighted the concerns about buying investments from an influencer, as well as from a company that is unregulated to offer financial or investment services here in Singapore.
In the first day after my story broke and went viral, Rachell Tan initially started rebutting my arguments on her own Instagram. The first being 1) the money doesn’t go into her bank account, 2) showing articles about the parent company whose business is in oil and gas, and 3) making yet another fallacious argument comparing Mirach to Nintendo and Pokemon Go.
A few days later, notably after the story made even more waves after being republished on Dollars and Sense, as well as MustShareNews, Rachell Tan took down all evidence of her involvement in the durian investment scheme on her Instagram, only leaving one photo of some men with the purported seedlings. Both the sites that reproduced the story as well as screenshots of the contract did proper source crediting back to me, even for MustShareNews, who did a slightly different spin on it.
But on 28 April, Mothership released a news article on the same story, including an image of the EXACT SAME PORTION of the contract I had cropped in my original article, as well as screenshots of the Instagram posts which they claimed to have taken from @pxdkitty Instagram page…which we know were taken down many days before Mothership’s article came out.
So either they took from secondary sources (mine, Dollars and Sense, or MustShareNews), or they legit took it from Rachell’s page and just hung onto it for over a week (psssst but their screenshots on other influencer sagas were much sooner at 3h and 16h instead? I don’t get it).
|Here’s mine, as published on 21 April 2018.
|Here’s Mothership’s version. Note how the dimensions cut off at the same point, even for the section where the letter C in red has been cut off (and ends at the bolded ‘r’ in “Guaranteed Returns” below)
|Here’s me showing you more of the contract. Note how even if someone chose to still crop from Clause 3 to 3.3 only, there’s a chance that they could have taken SLIGHTLY different measurements and you’ll have the red “C” be cut off at a different point, such as after the bolded ‘r’.
Let’s give Mothership the benefit of the doubt: perhaps they really did take from her page, except that they had to go through so many editorial QC processes that it took a long while before the article could be published.
(which seems funny if you compare the speed of their publishing on the Elaine Jasmine and WoWo MLM saga, at 2 and 3 days respectively. Impressive! On the other hand, they took 10 days on this durian saga. Exactly 9 days after I first exposed it on Dayre, and 7 days after I put it up on my blog after requests from my readers.)
But Mothership linked the “source” as the first page of a thread from HardWareZone, in which the very top post is a link to my article that was republished on Dollars & Sense, which links back to my site as the original owner of the article and screenshots. Screenshots of the screenshots on D&S of MY screenshots from the original Instagram posts and contract (lol) were shared on HardWareZone.
So who owns the screenshots? HWZ, or me?
Moreover, go ahead and compare the screenshots in both articles further. The reason why I believe Mothership either took it from me directly or from secondary sources quoting MY screenshots is because almost all of the screenshots featuring Rachell Tan with her hands up in the air in the background end at exactly the same cut-off timing, except for 2 screenshots – (i) the cover photo of Durian Sanctuary and (ii) the photo of Rachell’s father with the durian seedlings. On the other hand, Dollars & Sense as well as MustShareNews replicated all screenshots with the exact timing as mine, except that they actually had the decency and editorial integrity to credit it back to me (thank you!).
Mothership, on the other hand, makes absolutely no mention of SG Budget Babe as the original owner of the post, the one who publicly exposed this investment, the one who critiqued it and pointed out loopholes, nor the one who took all the screenshots.
Can we assume Mothership was completely ignorant about who the original author and owner of the photos were? Well, if that truly is the case, then clearly the writer of Mothership’s article didn’t do her homework, or the editorial team in Mothership messed up in their checks…or was this deliberate?????
I find it hard to believe Mothership had no idea who the original author is (i.e. me), especially when you consider how they follow XiaXue and has reproduced many stories from her (including the WoWo saga) and this even came out on XiaXue’s Instagram :
Clearly I’m not the only one either who thinks that Mothership’s article is too similar to mine to be a coincidence. Take a look at what some others also feel:
I may be just a small-time blogger, but I am absolutely not going to stand for it if a bigger website takes my story and photos without permission or worse, without giving due credit.
What do you guys think?
Update as of 3am on 1 May 2018: Mothership seems to be remaining uncharacteristically quiet or slow to respond, even though they’ve been tagged on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 respectively on different platforms (their Facebook post, my page, and my personal Facebook where a friend tagged Mothership’s Deputy Editor).