What is the appropriate response/action for a user uploading multiple duplicate images, organisms?

A user is repeatedly uploading the same image* as separate observations and appears to also be uploading the same organism as multiple observations. Comments are being made on this behavior, but the user does not appear to be responding. In the week since they joined iNaturalist they have uploaded 577 observations using the iPhone app (which suggests this is not a botanist batch uploading pre-existing collections). The user has made no identifications according to their profile. I could go through and repeatedly copy and paste the common responses, but the user does not appear to have responded to existing comments to combine observations (apps don’t surface comments?) What is the appropriate response/action? Or is there something I am missing/misconstruing?

  • Edit: Sequencing the photos reveals that the images are not quite exactly identical, as if the user were using some sort of multiple shot sequence. The leaf positions are slightly different shot to shot. Perhaps I am misinterpreting an iPhone photo bug?

This is not uncommon in Hong Kong observations too. There will be probably 5 separate observations of clearly the exact same organism. I simply asked the user to consider merging the photos but so far no responses yet. Here is an example: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/24302666#activity_comment_2832522

It could be the user is unaware that he/she has uploaded separate observation when they think they have multiple photos for one. I’m not sure if its an iPhone bug, I have used the iphone app to upload observations which contain multiple photos and so far no problems yet.

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A couple of comments to your questions

  • you can flag them, there is no specific category for duplicates, but you can use the other. I can see you have started flagging all the instances, I’m not sure I would go that far.
  • please note that curators do not have the authority to delete observations, so unfortunately from your perspective it will appear there is no action being taken.
  • likewise there is no tool to allow curators (or anyone for that matter) to automatically merge them
  • this specific case appears to be yet another CNC user, likely trying to drive up the record counts, they also have not logged in for a few days (and as a CNC user, may never again)
  • messages are sent to the app, but are much harder to see, there is no dashboard, and unless you are specifically looking for it, and even know what the coloured icon means, you may not see them, especially if they are on an observation that requires scrolling down your list
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Looking at this user’s observations and associated projects, this appears to be another case of an external motivator that creates an incentive (real or perceived) to add hundreds of observations with little concern for accuracy or duplication. I see that it’s part of a CNC Intersecondary School Competition umbrella project and the leading project under that umbrella.

I don’t think this is a result of an error in the app. I think this is the user’s intended behavior to help their school win. In this case, I think the best course of action after leaving some polite requests to merge observations & delete duplicates for the user (as you’ve done) is to reach out to the project admins and also send a note to help@inat if it is a severe case like this. I notice that @krentan has flagged some of this user’s activity as duplicates, so I imagine they are trying to deal with this on their end as well, and staff can try to support and help figure out what’s going on and the best remedy. Since it’s also City Nature Challenge related, I’ll tag @kestrel and @lhiggins here too so they’re aware.


As an addition, that project itself is probably taking a record for flagged observations (copyright*, intentionally misidentifying multiple photos of the same species as vastly different species**, and not just duplicates but up to at least septuplicates). I would certainly go so far as to say that it’s intentional behavior to artificially inflate the school’s ranking though would also question how this could be approached through a whole project (and without completely flooding help@).

* This project was a major reason for the Fabricated Data addition to the Curator Guide.

** I seem to recall a pineapple being called about everything besides a pineapple and a vegetable being called a raccoon. These IDs were added manually, not via computer vision.


Just an update, Carrie and I will be reaching out to the project organizers to see what might have contributed to this and how we can best move forward.


This is happening even during ordinary inat days, I just came across another user who has multiple separate observations of the same organism.

One way I could think of addressing the issue is to have an option “flag as duplicate observation”, and then inputting the links which lead to such duplicates. However due to the likelihood of many duplicate observations on a daily basis, and that taking action requires human-judgement it might not be the best idea. And then what sort of response would be appropriate? Make admins have the power to delete the duplicate observations? Having that lack of freedom may result in people not wanting to use the site, which isn’t a good thing.

PS. Btw guys I am strongly against the suggestion posed in the second-last sentence. No way do I want admins to have that power.

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NEVER! Observations are the “property of the observer”, and who knows if/when they are coming back to finish what they started. DQA’s to make them easily filterable out of queries is all that is needed. I would be seriously angry if anyone deleted any of my observations, regardless of the reason. I would be gone in a heartbeat.

No ill-feelings over your suggestion, just trying to express strongly enough my alarm at the possibility!

The last sentence to my post was actually my response to that thought…so essentially I even am in agreeance with your “NEVER!” I definitely wouldn’t want that to happen.

my apologies, I did mis-read the comment! Looking at the whole paragraph I see the context now… :)

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INat has always been really good about not doing that stuff, compared with certain other sites, which is part of why I chose it.


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