An anti-abortion group is accusing BuzzFeed of censorship after the popular website yanked a "listicle" attacking Planned Parenthood.
Personhood USA, a Christian activist group that advocates a constitutional amendment affirming that human life begins at conception, said BuzzFeed deleted the listicle “without warning” amid a groundswell of media criticism. The listicle, titled “8 Outrageous Things Planned Parenthood Was Caught Doing,” was posted by Personhood USA in BuzzFeed’s community section, where anyone can post an article under the BuzzFeed banner.
The propaganda-infused article included numerous outlandish claims, accusing Planned Parenthood of “covering up child sex trafficking,” “illegally not reporting rape” and “taking money to abort African-American babies,” among other things.
In a statement, Personhood USA staff writer Josh Craddock said he believed the listicle offered “thoughtful criticism” of Planned Parenthood, even if it did break “the mainstream media’s unspoken code of conduct.”
“Sadly, Buzzfeed capitulated to the pro-choice lobby by shutting down the free press and censoring speech that would dare expose the abortion industry’s horrifying misconduct,” he said.
The listicle was first posted on Aug. 21. Predictably, it was savaged by online media critics almost instantly, with articles in the Guardian and elsewhere blasting BuzzFeed for “pandering to right-wing nuts.” On Twitter some readers began calling for a boycott of BuzzFeed. Within two days, BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, went on the defensive, comparing the site's community section to an open platform like Twitter.
The controversy highlights a longstanding criticism of websites that host both user-generated and staff-created content. While BuzzFeed marks its community posts as such, they are presented under a template similar to the one used by BuzzFeed’s editorial team. Judging from the 446 comments on the anti-Planned Parenthood article, it’s clear that many readers did not make the distinction between the two.
“Wow, Buzzfeed just jumped the shark with this stream of nonsense,” wrote one reader.
“Yeeeah you guys should stick to memes and funny gifs,” wrote another.
In response to criticism over the post, BuzzFeed updated its community guidelines, which now prohibit “haters,” “trolls,” and posts that attack people or organizations. Critics, such as Hamish McKenzie at PandoDaily, say the rules are still too vague and won’t do much to address the larger problem of BuzzFeed providing activist groups with a platform that has tremendous digital reach.
The attack on Planned Parenthood, which remained online for several days even after BuzzFeed’s guidelines were updated, had attracted some 25,000 Facebook likes and more than 1,100 tweets before it was finally taken down. A BuzzFeed spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on when the post was removed and which of the new guidelines it violated.
Personhood USA has since reposted the listicle, in full, on its own site. And in case you’re wondering, the group has not stopped creating BuzzFeed community posts. It’s most recent, “Top 10 Mind-Blowing Images Of Human Life In The Womb,” was posted on Sept. 12.