Most people know that if you’re going to say rude things on the Internet, you probably shouldn’t do it using your real Facebook account. But what most people probably don’t expect is that if you talk trash under your real name on BuzzFeed, a BuzzFeed employee will scour the web for whatever publicly available contact information is out there, call for others to harass you, and that message will be further disseminated by larger news organizations.
Have we actually entered an age when giant media organizations are allowed to publicly resort to the same cyberbullying tactics that we used to only see used by groups like Anonymous? Yes. And that’s exactly the lesson one D.C. Correspondent is currently finding out.
When Alex Laska saw the listicle “84 Things That Aren’t on an Everything Bagel” — a deadpan retort to a McSweeny’s article satirizing BuzzFeed’s insipid lists – he was not impressed. Firing off a careless barb, Alex expressed that Notopoulos should kill herself and went on with his day.
Laska was not alone in his criticism of the post. The listicle’s Facebook comments were filled with criticisms of Notopolous’ and BuzzFeed’s apparent laziness.
While this is far from being the first time an internet commenter has left an offensive, albeit innocuous threat on an article, BuzzFeed community moderator Ryan Broderick retaliated against Laska by gathering together as much identifying information about the commenter as he could, then calling for public shaming and harrassment en masse – a cyberbullying tactic known as Doxing, popularized by groups like Anonymous and LulzSec.deleted Laska's information from his initial post, although that information remains on those who reblogged the post.]
The post quickly gathered hundreds of notes. Additional Tumblr users egged the harassment on.
But it wasn’t only BuzzFeed’s community moderator who endorsed a flood of harassment. Even Newsweek got caught up in the online bloodlust.
While no one would argue that what Alexander Laska said wasn’t cruel or short-sighted, the way BuzzFeed’s employees reacted was unprofessional to say the least. This is significant because it sets a precedent in which a BuzzFeed employee can not only choose to employ cyberbullying attacks against you, but other established news organizations like Newsweek will join in!
Newsweek, like CNN and MSNBC often cite BuzzFeed as a source in their own articles, and with recent high-profile hires like former Politico journalist Ben Smith, BuzzFeed has made it clear that they would like to be treated as a reputable news organization. When it comes to the overall reach of the full BuzzFeed syndication network, they come in at #3 in the US, just after Facebook and Google. Despite their well-documented problem with plagiarism, when it comes to traffic, it’s no secret that if BuzzFeed likes you, they can be kingmakers. They may not always play by the rules but they’re big enough to control the message.
Even if the site’s reputation is mostly associated with lists of cat pictures, when considering their partnerships with the New York Post, The Daily Mail, TMZ, US Weekly, and countless other media outlets, there’s no doubt that they’re a veritable juggernaut and a force to be reckoned with. For such a large and powerful organization to employ and be represented by petulant, vindictive children is nothing less than frightening.
UPDATE: as of the time of posting we’ve learned that Laska has removed his employment information this afternoon. That story is available on Politiker.