The Mirror

BuzzFeed Whines About Content Stealing (Yeah, Seriously)

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger

In an act never thought possible, BuzzFeed has found its balls.

The site’s legal department sent Barstool Sports a cease and desist letter this week demanding that editorial staff remove content BuzzFeed claims it owns.

As first noted by Mediaite, Barstool Sports didn’t bend over.

Known for its satirical bent, the site smacked back with a public response.

Barstool Sports founder David Portnoy — known as “El Presidente” online — called BuzzFeed‘s request “BANANALAND” and ended his letter by saying, “In closing, fuck you.”

Asked if they’d duke it out in court, Portnoy was doubtful: “On the one hand I’d love the publicity of showing what frauds they are. But it’s expensive obviously to go to court and pay legal fees over something so dumb.”

BuzzFeed, a site that has employed more than one plagiarist and which admittedly erased 5,000 posts for not being up to its own editorial standards, hasn’t responded to the question of what, if anything, happens next. “I haven’t heard back from them,” Portnoy said Friday evening in a phone conversation with The Mirror. “My guess is I don’t hear back, but if I did I’d have to think long and hard about it.”

A BuzzFeed spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

Portnoy explained that Bartstool Sports linked the picture to Twitter. “So the problem would be with Twitter, not with us,” he said. “I still really don’t know what BuzzFeed is saying. I got a little confused. I mean, I think it’s pretty well-known that they’ve literally built their business on stealing and they knew they were doing it.”

Portnoy said Barstool Sports’ editorial staff contacted BuzzFeed about five years ago for content stealing and they blew them off. “We were just asking for credit,” he recalled. “They just had no interest. That obviously is frustrating. It’s not even like they try to hide it. I don’t know how you can send an email like that and look at yourself in the mirror.”

BuzzFeed has given itself plastic surgery over the years, but it doesn’t mean the deeper wrinkles aren’t still visible. After a few mea culpas and literally changing its name from “BuzzFeed” to “BuzzFeed News” to distinguish listicles and quizzes about which Disney princess you are from more serious news content, perhaps they feel emboldened to demand that another site not steal what it perceives is its content. Another rich detail: they don’t believe in the word “listicle” and forbid employees from using the word. The preferred word is “list.” (How LOL of them.)

But is the site still partaking in online thievery?

“Probably they still do it a decent amount,” said Portnoy. “They are the definition of stealing people’s work. They are the kings of it. For them to send an email like that takes a lot of chutzpah.”

He said online journalism is not cut and dry. “It’s hard sometimes to tell where stuff originates,” he said. “As long as we know who created it, we’ll always credit, who cares?”

But BuzzFeed complaining about content stealing? Really? “It just goes against everything their company is built on,” he said. “It’s what BuzzFeed has been for so long. So it’s crazy and infuriating to get an email from a company like that.”

He reasoned that Twitter screws everything up. “If we don’t credit something it’s because we legitimately don’t have a clue where it originated,” he said. “Our slant is different. People are coming [to us] for the slant. I get it. If someone took the photo they should absolutely be credited.”

But BuzzFeed‘s utter lack of self-awareness is what gets on Portnoy’s last nerve.

“I think every single person who is asked to list the number one website that does not credit people, it would be BuzzFeed,” he said. “We don’t get many [cease and desist] emails like that. It wasn’t very hard to pull together a couple of links. You just put ‘BuzzFeed’ and steals into ‘Google’ and you could scroll down forever.”

And then some.