Good vs. Evil: Who is who?

by Emma Williamson and Chelsey Macaulay

On Aug. 24, 2015 Buzzfeed News produced an article titled "The King Of Bullsh*t News." This article called out and accused a small British news agency of publishing fake stories. On Monday, January 25th 2016, 5 months and 1 day after that article was published, that news agency and it's founder, Michael Leidig, filed a defamation lawsuit against Buzzfeed, looking for $11 million in damages. Hi, I'm Emma and I'm Chelsey. Today we are bringing you this online problem with lot's of information, so to make it easier, let's break it down. We have three parts: The Build-up, The Article and The Reply. So, let's get started.

The Build-Up

To get started we need some facts. Who is the CEN? What happened before the article was published? We are here to answer these questions!

Michael Leidig is a British journalist. He is also the co-founder and current owner of The Central European News, a small British news agency. This is also the agency that is suing BuzzFeed at the moment. After BuzzFeed's article was published, Leidig claimed that BuzzFeed reporter Alan White had contacted him in the beginning about writing an article, that was to be a feature on CEN's admirable investigative journalism, not about slamming his whole business. Alan White had also written an email to Leidig saying, "As I mentioned previously, I understand that you are producing this viral content for sale in order to fund your laudable (admirable) investigative journalism" and "I am keen to reflect this in the article." So, BuzzFeed did give Leidig a heads up about an article, but they didn't give him an apparent truthful one.

The Article

So, to recap what we know so far, the CEN and Michael Leidig are suing BuzzFeed for defamation and that BuzzFeed did provide them with notice that an article was in the making. But what was in the article that makes it worthy of an $11 million dollar lawsuit? Let's look into that next.

As we have said, the title wasn't a very nice one and the 7,000 word article doesn't get much better. BuzzFeed was quoted stating, "In all, we evaluated 41 CEN pieces that struck us as particularly attention-grabbing. Of those, 11 proved to be completely false or to be based on images that did not match the stories; 8 more contained suspicious details such as perfect quotes that appeared in no other coverage; 13 we were unable to verify either way; and 9 appeared to be real or mostly real."

The Reply

If someone accused you of faking 11 of your stories, would you get mad? Maybe some revenge? Except instead of a "revenge" article, CEN released an entire book. It was called "Buzz Bottom Feeders: An Insider Look At How BuzzFeed Tried to Destroy A Rival Business." This book pointed out the criticism and raised even more questions about BuzzFeed's motivation for "attacking" the CEN. In the book it states that BuzzFeed started it's investigation shortly after CEN offered them a story that showed a link between Microsoft and an ongoing Austrian court case. What deemed it suspicious to CEN was that Microsoft is one of BuzzFeed's largest corporate sponsors. Was BuzzFeed getting defensive about Microsoft? CEN and Leidig also claimed that BuzzFeed maliciously intended to damage Central European News in order to" obtain a greater share of the market for viral news in Great Britain and elsewhere around the world. Another reason Leidig decided to file lawsuit was that he had extended an "olive branch" to Janine Gibson, BuzzFeed's editor in chief, saying all he wanted was that the article be removed and an apology from BuzzFeed. He simply wanted no money to leave or exchange hands. He had good reason to as CEN's sales of stories, that hangs around 900 per month, had dropped 30%, and now his second biggest client would only use CEN's reports when deemed "absolutely necessary." Also, as soon as the article bomb dropped, a "potential high six-figure investment" seemingly disappeared.

So, what do you think?

Is BuzzFeed a ruthless killer, power hungry and taking down everything in its path to get what it wants? Or is a simple person casting light on shadows and calling people out for their missteps? Is CEN the secret criminal, snaking it's way through Great Britain? Or is it the clumsy news agency that makes a few mistakes? What ever you decide to believe, we hope you keep this simple statement in mind: Don't believe everything you see and read on the Internet.