Fake observations with copyrighted images from Russia

I hope my post does not violate forum rules, and if it does, I apologize in advance. My request concerns mainly to Russian iNaturalist users, as well as to everyone who identifies observations from Russia.
Please pay attention to the increasing number of fake observations with other people’s photos or screenshots from videos. Photos in such observations do not have metadata and sometimes show signs of cropping. The location is often imprecise (for example, fish in a field or in buildings) and the accuracy circle is very large. The dates are also often clearly inaccurate: for example, photos of a fox in winter are marked as taken in summer. In my experience, flagging and asking a user not to post someone else’s photos often results in flagged observation being removed, but the user continues to upload fake observations. So it doesn’t seem like a mistake, but rather a deliberate action.
It seems that some students are doing the assignment by recording species in iNat. I will not point out specific people, but according to my impressions, most of the users with such fake observations are concentrated in Bashkortostan. If I’m not mistaken, this is not the first time and such cases have already happened before.
Kindly request: whenever possible, please check all dubious observations. There are many of them.


Flag for copyright - takes them ‘off’ iNat.
And will make them useless for student assignments.


If it is student’s work, it is good way to search project (usually it is only one which the person join to), find the administrator and write a PM. I’ve done this way sometimes and mostly it is work. Students were banned from the project and had to rework they job properly.

UPD: Unfortunately there is no such projects in observation of these (at least three) persons.


Yes, the observations are not linked with projects in recent cases. But the order of loading (first mostly plants - botany, then animals - zoology) may suggest assignments for the corresponding courses.


I saw your comment in one of those observations and flagged the photo and it was immediately taken down. However, as the upload was from last semester (april) it probably did not bother the person to much, if your suspicion about the asignments is right :unamused:


If you can share some of the usernames in an email to help@inaturalist.org I can investigate things like IP addresses.


Thanks for your participation. I have sent you a list of some of them.

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This behavior (at least on a small scale) isn’t unique to users from a particular geographical region.

Sometimes users – friends or classmates – will join iNat together and start IDing each other’s observations, often on the basis of questionable CV suggestions. I think typically it is not even a deliberate attempt to “cheat” and get more observations to research grade, just enthusiastic new users who are overestimating their level of knowledge and don’t realize that there are other, similar-looking species that need to be considered.

And it is exacerbated when they are users of the iOS app and don’t see messages explaining why they should be more careful when IDing.


In 2020 in Russia there were several tries to organize student/scholar practices on iNat. Unfortunately, most of the mentors didn’t use iNat much before, so they couldn’t explain how to use it properly and didn’t moderate it. So students simply started to “close practice”, not to learn nature. And because all these practices are usually in June, there was just a flood of poor quality observations.


Yes, this happens from users all over the world and no region or culture is unaffected. By far the biggest factors are a) people being “forced” to use iNat (usually for school) and b) instructors who aren’t familiar with iNat. I think it’s important for us to not paint groups of people with a broad brush based on nationality or other traits, but focus on the behavior itself and the particular situtation that may cause it so we can work toward a solution.


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