Amid Anger Over Anti-Abortion Post, Buzzfeed Says It’s Still Figuring Out Whether To ‘Draw Lines’

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 4.55.06 PMBuzzFeed came under fire today after the viral site ran a post slamming Planned Parenthood.

“8 Outrageous Things Planned Parenthood Was Caught Doing,” submitted by a community contributor, the anti-abortion group PersonhoodUSA, has unsurprisingly not been a hit with BuzzFeed’s core readership.

BuzzFeed Editor in Chief Ben Smith said that the site is still figuring out aspects of opening up BuzzFeed’s platform to community contributors. “We’ve been adjusting the labeling, and we’re in the process of figuring out where and whether we should draw lines about what’s appropriate on what we conceived as an open platform, like Facebook and Twitter. It’s an interesting, and complicated, question but we’re inclined to leave the platform as open as possible,” Mr. Smith told us in an email.

Although community posts are not written by BuzzFeed employees, they need to successfully ape the style so that the posts will be featured on the site. The Community page means that the BuzzFeed platform is open for contributors to make their own lists. But since the community section launched as a vertical in May, agenda-driven groups have begun to use the site as a way to gin up some publicity.

“We’ve had an explosion of interest in our community in recent weeks and a flood of new content, a lot of it great, both from individual contributors, which had been the focus of the community, and from groups,” Mr. Smith said.

In the past week, PersonhoodUSA has shared six posts on BuzzFeed, including “5 Incredible Videos Of Life In The Womb,” “5 Bizarre ‘Persons’ Protected By Law” and “10 Celebrities Who Came Out As Pro-Life. Earlier this summer, The Heritage Foundation wrote a post slamming Obamacare on BuzzFeed that fooled both Senator Ted Cruz and bloggers. Wonkette criticized the post, claiming it was sponsored content.

But actually, community posts aren’t sponsored in the way that word has come to be used on websites. The conservative group didn’t actually pay BuzzFeed; rather, they got to post the item for free as a community contributor, which, from a business perspective, seems to be a major flaw in the whole system.

If you can put your own post on BuzzFeed, why pay the website to make sponsored content?

(Mr. Smith didn’t respond to that part of our question.)

Update (6:43 p.m.): Mr. Smith sent over an additional comment.

He wrote: “One of the few ways these posts get seen are from stories like the one you wrote. There isn’t a single link on BuzzFeed to this story, but there is one in The New York Observer.” 

Amid Anger Over Anti-Abortion Post, Buzzfeed Says It’s Still Figuring Out Whether To ‘Draw Lines’