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Indian hack claimed to have written Duke Cancer expose

by on07 February 2013

DMCA notice abuse of the day

A small news site based in India lifted an expose about a Duke Cancer expert and then demanded that the original stories were taken down under a DMCA notice. The expose of Anil Potti, a cancer researcher who worked at Duke University was posted on the blog Retraction Watch which was run by Ivan Oransky, the executive editor at Reuters Health, and Adam Marcus, the managing editor of Anesthesiology News.

Potti first fell under scrutiny for embellishing his resume, but the investigation quickly found problems with his research and a number of Potti's papers ended up being retracted over accusations of falsified data. Eventually, three clinical trials that were started based on Potti's data were stopped. Retraction Watch published 22 stories on Potti's and three of the top four Google results for his name all point to the Retraction Watch blog. Potti managed to get a position at the University of North Dakota and he hired a reputation management company to sort out his Internet profile.

According to Ars Technica, one morning 10 of the Retraction Watch posts vanished and Oransky received an email saying that Narendra Chatwal who claimed to be a senior editor at NewsBulet.In, "a famous news firm in India" claimed his site had written the stories. Chatwal said the site only publishes work that is "individually researched by our reporters," yet duplicates of some of the site's material appeared on Retraction Watch. Therefore, to protect his copyright, he asked that the WordPress host pull the material under the DCMA and it complied.

But the problem was that the offending site didn't exist until after Retraction Watch had posted nine of the allegedly plagiarised stories. Sentences of the material appear at a variety of other outlets too. The takedown has meant the loss of the original stories and has led to some questions about Potti’s involvement in the takedown. Potti has never responded to any emails or phone calls and he does have some links to India. Oransky said that it might be just a coincidence, but it would be damn fine way of keeping people from reporting on retractions and scientific fraud.

Here is how it works. Someone reports on something you don’t like. You cut and paste the reports to a blog in a far off country. You surround the story with some local news or other things that you have cut and pasted to make the site look a little legit. Then contact Wordpress, or some an ISP with a DCMA takedown notice and hope that no one looks too closely. We are not saying that is what Potti has done, but it does indicate a weakness in the whole DCMA takedown procedure.

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