The editor of BuzzFeed has acknowledged the deletion of more than 1,000 posts — three following complaints from advertisers — since he was hired in January 2012, according to an NPR report.
The report stated that editor in chief Ben Smith‘s memo to the staff, obtained by the website Gawker, comes after his site was criticized for the recent deletion of two posts — one critical of the board game Monopoly and the other critical of the ad campaign launched by soap brand Dove. Their parent companies, Hasbro and Unilever, respectively, are BuzzFeed advertisers. Gawker first reported both those deletions. Smith has maintained both those instances were for editorial reasons, but the deletions, and the scrutiny directed at the website, prompted an internal review of the practice at BuzzFeed.
The NPR report also stated:
“The review, which was headed by Annie-Rose Strasser, BuzzFeed News deputy managing editor, found 1,112 deleted posts since January 2012. Here’s the breakdown, according to Smith’s memo: editorial decisions, 100; advertiser complaints, 3; copyright issues, 65; technical error, 263; duplicated already published work, 122; community user deletions, 140; on-edit staff deletions and unidentified bylines, 377.
“”What we did find in our early days was we were deleting things all the time: for reasons of tone, you know of taste, of, you know, ah, you know what I didn’t think this quite worked,” Smith told NPR’s David Folkenflik. “And that was our existing policy at the time. But we had a new policy – and I personally broke it – and so it was a total. It was a real mistake.”
“Of the three posts deleted after complaints from advertisers, one, Smith said, was by Mark Duffy, a blogger and ad critic who wrote for the site under the byline “copyranter.” In 2013, he accused an ad for Axe deodorant of advocating “worldwide mass rape.” The ad agency complained, via BuzzFeed’s chief revenue officer, that the “tone of his item was over the top.”
“”I agreed that this was way outside even our very loose standards of the time,” Smith wrote in his memo to staff.
“A second post was deleted after complaints from BuzzFeed’s chief revenue officer. This one was by Tanner Ringerud, a former member of BuzzFeed’s Creative department, who switched to editorial in 2013. His post that March mocked Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. In his previous BuzzFeed job, Ringerud had worked on a Microsoft ad campaign. After the complaint, Smith said, “We agreed that it was inappropriate for Tanner to write about brands whose ad campaigns he’d worked on.”
“The third complaint, this one in January 2014, came from the head of BuzzFeed’s creative division that writer Samir Mezrahi had taken a gif from a Pepsi ad created by BuzzFeed’s creative team and turned it into a Vine without credit. Smith said he asked Mezrahi not to use advertising created by BuzzFeed’s business side for editorial purposes.”