You’ve probably seen it pop up on Facebook and maybe you’ve clicked a link or two, but I can’t begin to tell you how much IFH “IFLScience.” According to their website, “IFLScience is a growing community of those who desire to explore, going beyond common knowledge to understand how and why our world and universe work.” Well, I can shed this understanding for IFLScience right now. Everything that they do is done for a simple reason: money.
The site puts me in a difficult position as it does a great job of spreading science in a way that audiences enjoy and become curious about. The fact that readers even know what it is supports this claim. However, what IFLS is also doing is stripping away a large degree of scientific objectivity, sensationalizing science news and essentially plagiarizing the works of legitimate reporters for real news outlets.
I noticed when I first started seeing the site appear in my news feed that many of the photographs were not credited, and the stories summarized what other sites were reporting. I never put much thought into this until I began working for The Rocket. I came to understand that IFLS was hosting other people’s content from another website and publishing it on their own, every word of it, with little to no original information on the topic, changing headlines and pushing the links from social media, all in an effort to drive traffic to their website to make money. Everyone learned from a very early age that plagiarism is wrong, and what IFLS was doing was questionable at best.
Currently, the articles typically offer credit to the original source and often offer a “Hat Tip” to the original site that reported the story they are now hosting. This is probably a more legal fix instituted after getting heat for flat out stealing the work, but still not a good solution. I’m sure that a tip of the hat is all that any reporter wants when their journalistic work is distributed from a source that they don’t work for and is making money off of their work.
In all honesty, there is a component of journalism that does support the previous claim. Writing is something journalists do to communicate something to an audience. Reporting is done so that people are informed on things and so that informed individuals can discuss topics with well-developed opinions supported by facts and an understanding of the topics. Similarly, photographers want their pictures to be viewed. However, this is also how many people make a living, and not just reporters and photographers. For instance, editors, advertising managers, copyeditors and many others depend on news services to make a living. Taking content, even when linking to it, is selfishly taking potential money away from all of these people.
When I see an article on social media that catches my eye and it’s from IFLS, I search Google for the headline and try to find the original source. If I can’t and still really want to read the article I’ll click the IFLS link, find the “Hat Tip” and visit that source as soon as possible. If it interests me, I share the content with the link from the original source, not IFLS. I encourage all true lovers of science and respect for one another to do the same.