The Mirror

BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith Cites Rape Story As Among Best Trafficked Since ‘The Dress’

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger

Rape gets high marks in BuzzFeed‘s book. Or so it seems.



While the site gave presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump the shaft on RNC ads because they say he’s like a “cigarette” and harmful to their health, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith bragged that their Stanford rape story really hit the sweet spot.

His exact words:

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For those who don’t know, the rape story is the one in which a woman raped by a former swimmer at Stanford while she lay unconscious after a night of partying. The story gained major traction on Monday after CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield read the letter from the rape victim aloud on her program — a letter that was first published Friday on BuzzFeed.

Meanwhile…”The Dress” is a heavily clicked feature BuzzFeed ran in February, 2015 in which readers were asked to decide whether a dress was blue and black or white and gold. Weirdly, humans saw each and BOOM: big traffic.

On Tuesday, there was turbulence. Some on Twitter reacted harshly to Smith’s bragging with at least one reader calling him “human trash fire.”

  • “Wow! well done guys, this rape is great news for you. The best rape for content in ages.”
  • “Good for you. I hope you find lots more human misery to exploit for clicks very soon.”
  • “I kind of hear what you’re trying to say, but delete your account.”
  • “You’re comparing a rape story to internet novelty clickbait? This is why your dumb site is a punchline.”
  • “I’m sure the author of that letter would appreciate you making that correlation, you human trash fire.”
  • “I’m glad we’ve got our priorities straight now.”

Beejoli Shah, a rape survivor who had her own story published on BuzzFeed in 2014, remarked, “This is a bad priority to share from an org that hasn’t always handled survivor stories, including my own, well.” She explained, “I had a really, really caring and trusting editor on my piece itself, but the subsequent edits BF made after the fact led to SO many issues.”

She added, “When @BuzzFeedBen (who I respect a LOT) equates the the Stanford letter to a viral dress, it makes me question priorities of BF editors.”

Smith tried to quickly perform damage control.

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Smith replied to a woman who said the author was “elated” that 7 million people read her story. “This just seems like such a positive thing,” he wrote.

Beejoli tried to school Smith, saying, “They’re shading you guys for trying to celebrate your own virality, instead of letting that # be news on its own.”

Hey BuzzFeed…is some sensitivity training in order?