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BuzzFeed Caught Plagiarizing From Reddit Again

Submitted by on March 9, 2013 – 6:31 pm4 Comments

A plagiarism scandal involving two of the web’s most popular sites has opened up a debate about the world of online writing. Hugely popular viral content creator BuzzFeed was caught yet again copying a thread from influential social news site Reddit, and re-purposing it as a list article without appropriate citation.

BuzzFeed’s most popular post of the week, “The 30 Happiest Facts of All Time,” reportedly took 22 of 38 facts from a thread about happy facts on Reddit, but did not mention the site anywhere on the page.

The Atlantic Wire’s Philip Bump found the real source after the BuzzFeed article’s success, noting that the post had “840,000 views, 86,000 Facebook likes, and 2,620 tweets” after just a day. Bump contacted BuzzFeed, who finally added a note at the beginning of the article citing the Reddit thread.

In an investigation last June in Slate, writer Farhad Manjoo laid out the argument that the “secret” to BuzzFeed’s success is stealing content from Reddit without crediting it, providing many examples of the practice. Manjoo noted that BuzzFeed often works around the problem, citing the websites that originally host the content linked to by Reddit, like image site Imgur.

Einstein famously said “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” As a pithy comeback, it usually gets a laugh; as a business model, it’s a bit more troubling.

But should we be worrying about the journalistic standards of “emotionally driven, image-heavy content people want to share,” as BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has described it? What do you think?

[Image via The Atlantic Wire]

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