Terms and Conditions

Bizarrely, the Terms and Conditions page on Tri-Network hosts several categories of important information which are comedically left blank.

Now, looking at that title, I’m sure some of you are immediately throwing up some red flags, but I assure you that I’m not about to plagiarize anyone’s work. No, that’s been done for me already, so we can skip to the part where I enjoy it. I’ll be writing this article fairly candidly so as to make absolutely certain that my tone of voice gets across, as well as to establish who I am. My name, which you may or may not see at the top of this article, is DeForest White. I say that because depending on where you read this, that fact may not be readily apparent.

The publication for which I write is called The Eastern Progress, the official student-run news organization of Eastern Kentucky University, where I am currently attending. I’ve been writing articles and working as a columnist and editor here for some time, and during my tenure here…am I tenured, actually? I don’t think so. Anyway, during my time working for the Progress, I’ve had the opportunity to write about a great number of subjects, but one of my absolute favourite articles that I’ve ever written was one about conspiracy theories, published on Oct. 26, 2021.

During the writing process of that article, which you can read here, I interviewed a man by the name of Peter Jarvio. At the time, he was fairly well-known on campus as the guy who set up his presentations on how the moon landings were faked, and he regularly talked to students about many personal theories he had about how we as a people were being lied to. His online presence was fairly minimal, but now that it’s been a few months, if you Google his name my article is the first thing that shows up. It is immediately followed by a few other student publications from other schools where he was interviewed around the same time frame, such as this article from the University of Southern Indiana, or this article by a student from Ohio University. If you scroll down a few results, though, you might notice something interesting: a headline that exactly mirrors my own, published on a site called Tri-Network.

Now, if you’ve never heard of Tri-Network, you’re not alone; I had never heard of them either. But of course upon seeing my headline somewhere other than the site that I published it, I was immediately interested and concerned, so I clicked on it. What I found was an exact carbon copy of my article, complete with the same image and excerpts…written by Laura Wirth.

Who is Laura Wirth? I mean, I wanna talk to her, it’s amazing to think that by sheer random chance, she would somehow conduct the exact same interviews at the exact same location I did, and publish her article, written word for word exactly the same as my own, precisely 24 hours after mine was published. That’s incredible! A statistical anomaly the likes of which the world has never seen! I had to contact her somehow to ask what was going on (and compliment her on her impeccable writing style), but sadly, Tri-Network doesn’t have any methods of contacting them available on their website. It’s a shame, because the entire site appears to be articles written exclusively by Laura Wirth, be they political pieces, finance reports, or truly any genre of article you might be looking for.

I am, of course, being facetious. These articles are quite obviously being stolen en masse, with my article being merely one of many that were automatically scouted, siphoned, and sucked away to the far-off land of Tri-Network. The very first action that I should take upon realizing that my work has been plagiarized is to report the theft, and take proper actions to insure that it gets taken down. This is what the obvious solution is, as well as what I have been advised by numerous people to do.

Here’s the thing, though.

I don’t wanna.

No, no, my very first thought when I realized what was happening was not to take the easy way out and pursue justice; Rather, my first thought was “Oh boy, how do I mess with ‘em?”, and I proceeded to worm my way in further. I figured that if my own article was copied word for word, surely the others hosted on the site would be easily located as well, right? Well, I was half correct. I saw that my conspiracy article had been entered into a series called “Confirmation Bias”, which was appropriate since I actually talked about the effects of confirmation bias when speaking about how conspiracy theorists were able to fall into their rabbit holes of self-referential information. I saw another article in the list, headline reading “Leadership Perspectives | Demystifying Technology to Address the Skills Shortage.”

I copied the headline, Googled it, and lo and behold, the original article (which you can find here) stared me in the face. Interestingly, though, the same headline showed up again twice below that. One, I expected: Tri-Network, where I had found the article originally. The second, an unfamiliar name, YK Moyo. And so I clicked on that, only to find the article, on an entirely different site…written by Richard R. Sutton.

Who is Richard R. Sutton? I mean, I wanna talk to him, it’s amazing to think that by sheer random chance, he would somehow conduct the exact same interview at the exact same location this other writer did, and publish his article, written word for word exactly the same as the other, precisely 24 hours after it was published. That’s incredible! A statistical anomaly the likes of which the world has never seen! I had to contact him somehow to ask what was going on (and compliment him on the timeliness of his reporting), but sady, YK Moyo doesn’t have any methods of contacting them available on their website…you get the idea. Richard R. Sutton appears to be credited with writing every article on the website, and from the articles you can tell he’s an interesting character. He writes about stock markets, he writes about workplace solutions, he writes about how to optimize your gameplay while playing Project Triangle Strategy for the Nintendo Switch (Yes, that’s real).

Now at this point, I noticed something peculiar. Tri-Network and YK Moyo were virtually the same website. I mean, Tri-Network had a green theme while YK Moyo had red, and their names and logos were different, but the formatting of the pages, the obviously copy/pasted Terms and Conditions? All maintained the same minimalist news site theming that would so easily pass undetected on a Tweet or Facebook post. And so it was that I started trying to figure out the mechanics of the sites.

How on earth did these things operate? I mean, quite obviously Laura Wirth and Richard R. Sutton weren’t real people and everything was being done automatically. I wondered how exactly articles were scouted, and then something occurred to me. I mentioned before that the article that was stolen from me was put in a series called “Confirmation Bias,” but perhaps that wasn’t coincidental. If these sites simply searched for keywords and phrases in smaller publications’ articles, they would fit in the existing libraries that the site had stolen thus far, and in doing so provide them with a false sense of authority as an established news source. That would explain why my article which referenced confirmation bias was categorized the way that it was, why the Leadership Perspectives article was categorized as “Confirmation Bias” on one site and “Occupational Skills” on another, and even why Richard R. Sutton was willing to take a break from writing about workplace harassment to discuss Triangle Strategy, a game featuring a robust job and occupation system that would very easily trigger keywords meant to filter out business related articles.

It is at this point that I turn to you, the person reading this. For once, my target audience extends beyond the reach of those reading The Eastern Progress. I have looked through several more of these Potemkin news sites and formulated a list of keywords that I believe will trigger the scouting systems they use to search for articles. I’m about to write each of them in succession, creating a series of bizarro sentences with no syntax that don’t break the format of the article, but will make absolutely no sense to any human reading it. In this, my hope is to have this article circulate on as many of these sites as possible, partially for the sake of science, but mostly for the sake of my own amusement; A “Tri-Net To Laugh Challenge,” if you will. And so, here it is, my magnum opus. Economic growth, corporate restructuring, confirmation bias. Bank APR UK? Financial affairs professional values, occupational skills webinar online teacher. Public limited companies, labor parties confidentiality training.

Okay, now that all that is laid out on the table, I’m publishing this article with the intent of coming back to it in a day or two, having looked around and seen if it shows up anywhere. Of course, it might not, there could be filters that don’t allow words like “plagiarism” or “stealing,” but I sure hope not. That wouldn’t be very fun at all.

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