A British news agency that deals almost exclusively in bizarre, sensational stories with viral potential has sued BuzzFeed for defamation, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The $11 million lawsuit was brought against the digital media giant by Central European News (CEN), which was the subject of a recent BuzzFeed article titled “The King of Bullsh*t News.”
In the post, BuzzFeed divulged that CEN was the source of questionable stories that found their way to news outlets like the New York Daily News and the Daily Mirror—think headlines like “Teacher suspended after sex session with teen pupil ends up on hardcore porn website” and “Justin Bieber ringtone saves Russian fisherman from bear attack”—and that a good chunk of CEN’s clickbait was fake news. (BuzzFeed did also note that a number of CEN’s tamer posts were legitimate.)
From the BuzzFeed article:
The firm’s business model, like that of many other news agencies, is to sell a regular stream of stories and pictures to other media companies, which publish them under the bylines of their own reporters. In CEN’s case, these include a string of stories from relatively remote parts of China, India, Russia, and other non-Western countries. They tend to depict the inhabitants of those countries as barbaric, sex-crazed, or just plain weird. And often they are inaccurate or downright false.
… CEN’s “weird news” stories and images appeal to news organisations precisely because they fall into the category of “too good to check”. They also appeal because they are perfectly tailored to the current media ecosystem, in which the holy grail is to have content go viral on Facebook and other social media platforms, delivering a surge of traffic.
Prior to publication, BuzzFeed analyzed 41 CEN posts that stuck out as outlandish, of which 32 were deemed suspect (albeit to varying degrees). In a letter to BuzzFeed at the time, CEN declined to reveal its reporting methods—citing BuzzFeed as a competitor—and denied the allegations made by the publication.
CEN and British journalist Michael Leidig filed the lawsuit together and said BuzzFeed had compromised CEN’s business, resulting in declining ad revenue and the loss of CEN clients—including “a potential high-six-figure investment.” The suit also accused BuzzFeed of incorrectly poking holes in multiple articles that could be backed up by real quotes and reporting; CEN alleged that BuzzFeed had not conducted a comprehensive fact check of the content in question.
Fast Company has reached out to BuzzFeed for comment on the lawsuit.
[via Hollywood Reporter]