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News Headline of Plagiarism's second act

Plagiarism’s Second Act

In 2023, plagiarism seemed destined to become a background player once generative AI took center stage. After all, if you can have an entire essay written in a matter of minutes (if not seconds) by an AI, why even bother writing it yourself, let alone copying anyone else’s work? 

Therefore, why worry about plagiarism anymore, right? Wrong.

As it turns out, plagiarism was gearing up for its second act.

Plagiarism takes center stage – again 

Less than a month into 2024, plagiarism has dominated the news, specifically in higher education. 

But plagiarism has been around for ages, so what’s the big deal this time?

For starters, plagiarism was considered passée following the rise of generative AI. The focus shifted from concerns about someone copying another’s work without proper attribution to AI-generated content and where it fits into our workflows and among educational curricula. 

Then, last summer, plagiarism was somewhat in the conversation again, though not so much regarding the traditional sense, but through the lens of genAI and the rise of copyright infringement cases due to AI models. 

Now, we’re back to basics. Well, sort of. 

While traditional plagiarism never went away, what is putting it back in the news is that people are retroactively checking past works for potential plagiarism and finding results in the works of prominent figures. What we’ve seen as a result is that one thing never changes: the repercussions of plagiarism can be severely damaging to a career or academic record. 

Yes, AI was considered (and still is) the big concern around integrity. But as it turns out, plagiarism is the plot twist many of us never saw coming.

Plagiarism is here to stay

Whether you’re a leader at a university, a student in high school, or a freelance blogger, the awareness of plagiarism is as crucial as ever. First, even if AI is getting attention for being a significant concern for academic and business integrity, that doesn’t mean the rules and considerations surrounding plagiarism disappear. Plagiarism may fade in and out of focus, but it’s never out of view. 

But isn’t there such a thing as accidental plagiarism? Yes.

Accidental plagiarism is one of the most common forms of plagiarism we see at Copyleaks, especially among students. It can be a simple matter of forgetting to put quotations, incorrect citing methods, etc. 

Nevertheless, there are ways we can avoid accidental plagiarism by being proactive with utilizing the resources available to us. Tools, such as the Plagiarism Detector, are available not only to schools and businesses but also to the individual user. Therefore, freelancers, journalists, and even students can check any work before submission to ensure no accidental plagiarism may be found later. 

While we’re on the subject, let’s take a moment to talk a little bit more about the role of plagiarism detectors. The recent high-profile cases of plagiarism may reinforce pre-existing ideas that these tools are used to police people or even try to catch and embarrass them. That should never be the case. 

Instead, checking one’s original work with a content detection tool should be a natural step in the creation process to ensure integrity. And any case of potential plagiarism should be seen as a learning opportunity. If, for example, a case of plagiarism is flagged in a student assignment, the information provided by the detection tool should be used by the educator to open conversations and create a potential learning opportunity to avoid any feelings of shame. 

With all this said, that doesn’t mean that AI is no longer something to consider. What all this means is that, along with AI, plagiarism should still be part of the integrity conversation. One does not remove the other. In fact, as we’ve seen, AI-generated content can often contain plagiarism. 

So don’t count plagiarism out when it comes to your work, whether you write it yourself or use genAI to assist. As 2024 has already shown us, plagiarism never goes away; in fact, it can show up years later when you least expect it. 

Embrace your originality and create with integrity from the start. You never know when your future self will thank you for it.

"undetectable" outputs shown in highlighting the errors

Undetectable AI Tools: Are They Worth It?

With the rise of AI usage for generating text, so is the increase in AI detector tools to help mitigate potential risks and ensure responsible adoption. In response, tools that promise to make AI-generated text undetectable began arriving on the scene shortly thereafter. But are these undetectable AI tools worth it? 

As it turns out, there are a few risks to be aware of.

With the continual evolution of AI, it was uncovered that AI models can sometimes have what’s known as “hallucinations.” An AI hallucination is when the AI generates data that is factually incorrect. The same can happen with the tools that aim to make AI undetectable. 

Generally speaking, undetectable AI tools are paraphrasing tools, meaning they take the text provided and render it to sound more human without, theoretically, losing the meaning of the text. However, when the text is ‘Humanized,’ what is generated can alter the original content’s meaning, including changing or omitting facts. In short, these tools are trying to paraphrase without the capability of considering the subject matter of the text itself.

To determine the accuracy and other potential risks of these tools, we conducted tests between November 2023 and January 2024. 

On November 2, 2023, we asked ChatGPT-3.5, the most widely used AI model, to generate content about Danish astronomer Ole Rømer. We then had some of the leading undetectable AI tools on the market ‘humanize’ it for us. 

Here are the results. 

Note that the text highlighted in red is where the undetectable platform changed or altered facts contained within the original text. 

Facts Changed or Omitted

First, we looked at the output of undetectable AI tools to determine if the original text’s meaning was maintained or changed, including if any facts were altered or omitted.

For this, we tested a few pieces of text. Here are the results.

Grammatical Issues 

Our testing uncovered another risk to be aware of.

Undetectable AI tools can often compromise sentence structure and overall grammar in an effort to generate more ‘humanized’ text. 

On January 11th, 2024, the initial GPT-3.5 generated text was re-submitted to the same undetectable AI tools. This time, we noticed that while the facts stayed more intact than the outputs in November, the results had noticeable grammatical and overall structure errors, as shown in the examples below. 

On January 11th, 2024, we also asked ChatGPT-3.5 to generate a new essay, this time about the North Atlantic right whale. 

We put portions of the new essay through the same undetectable AI tools as before, and the output resulted in both facts being changed or omitted and improper grammar and sentence structure. 

ChatGPT and Undetectable tool output comparisons

Passing the AI Detector Test

But what about the whole point of these tools, which is to make AI-generated text more human, subverting AI detectors? 

To determine how effective these tools are for their intended purpose, on January 11th, 2024 we put the ‘humanized’ text about the North Atlantic right whale through the Copyleaks AI Content Detector to see if it would be detected as AI or human.

Screenshot of the Copyleaks AI Content Detector detecting the output as AI content

Clearly, there is still the possibility that text rendered as “undetectable” can, in fact, be flagged by AI detectors.

In the end, is it worth it?

As our tests show, the outputs from these tools can result in facts that are inaccurate, improper sentence structure, and, most importantly, text that can still get flagged as AI. 

Therefore, before deciding to spend the time having your AI text ‘humanized’ by undetectable tools, you should stop and consider if the risk is worth it, especially since many of these tools require you to pay before you can even try them.

In the end, if you’re going to end up rewriting your AI-generated content to fix what the undetectable tools generated, then why not just do it yourself in the first place?