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The latest news on BuzzFeed from Business Insider



Published: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:40:25 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:40:25 -0400

 



Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has dropped a pair of lawsuits against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the infamous Trump-Russia dossier

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 10:36:00 -0400

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  • President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen has dropped a pair of libel lawsuits against BuzzFeed and the opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
  • Cohen withdrew the suits on Wednesday amid a separate legal battle over documents and files the FBI seized from him last week in a raid of his office, apartment, and hotel room.

NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump's personal attorney has dropped a pair of libel lawsuits against BuzzFeed and investigation firm Fusion GPS.

Michael Cohen had sued in federal court in New York City over publication of the dossier detailing alleged ties between Trump and Russia. He dropped the suits late Wednesday amid a separate legal battle over documents and electronic files seized from his home, office and hotel room last week in an FBI raid.

Cohen dropped the suits late Wednesday amid a separate legal battle over documents and electronic files seized from him last week by the FBI.

The dossier claims that Cohen met with Russian operatives in Europe for a meeting to "clean up the mess" over disclosures of other Trump associates' reported ties to Russia.

Cohen says he’s never been to Prague.

There was no immediate response on Thursday to a request for comment from his lawyers.

Fusion GPS said it welcomed the decision.

SEE ALSO: The judge presiding over the Michael Cohen case was once in the running to be Bill Clinton's attorney general, trained to be a Playboy bunny, and officiated George Soros' wedding

DON'T MISS: A federal judge handed Trump and Michael Cohen a setback after a wild day in court

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A viral video that appeared to show Obama calling Trump a 'dips---' shows a disturbing new trend called 'deepfakes'

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:48:09 -0400

BuzzFeed published a video that appeared to show former US President Barack Obama cursing and calling President Donald Trump names, but revealed the clip was actually fabricated using emerging video-editing technology. The voice of director and actor Jordan Peele was actually used in the video, which had been inserted into an original clip of Obama, effectively creating a "deepfake" — aka a video of someone saying or doing something that didn't happen. This technology, widely being called "the future of fake news," is already being used in controversial ways, including to insert the faces of celebrities into pornography. A realistic-looking video that seemed to show former President Barack Obama cussing and calling President Donald Trump a "total and complete dips---," went viral on Tuesday, bringing attention to the dangers of a controversial video-editing technology that many have called "the future of fake news." About halfway through the video, originally published by BuzzFeed, it is revealed that Obama had actually not uttered those words and that they were actually said by "Get Out" director and writer Jordan Peele, whose voice and mouth had been digitally inserted into an original — much less scandalous — video of the former president. Here's the full video: width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/cQ54GDm1eL0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Peele, BuzzFeed, and Monkeypaw Productions used a controversial but widely available software to make the video, in an effort to demonstrate the dangers of "deepfakes," aka digitally manipulated videos that have the power to "make it look like anyone is saying [or doing] anything at any point in time," that didn't actually happen. According to BuzzFeed, the video took 56 hours to make, along with the assistance of a professional video editor. "So the good news is it still requires a decent amount of skill, processing power, and time to create a really good 'deepfake,'" said BuzzFeed's news-media editor, Craig Silverman, in a post that accompanied the video. Unfortunately, this technology is already being used by nonexperts for nefarious purposes, including inserting the faces of celebrities into pornographic videos, creating, in some instances, very convincing and disturbing results. Deepfakes are most commonly created with the free AI software, FakeApp, that was popularized in forums dedicated to the sharing of fake videos on Reddit and Discord, and first reported on by Motherboard in December 2017. The software requires a large number of photos of the person whom the user wishes to insert into a video, so celebrities and public figures — like former presidents — have become naturally easy targets. Even beyond nonconsensual pornography, the greatest potential dangers for this technology have only begun to emerge. Many experts have begun to ask what this technology, along with sophisticated audio editing, could mean for the future of fake news and media in general. "It may sound basic, but how we move forward in the age of information is going to be the difference between whether we survive or whether we become some kind of f---ed-up dystopia," says Peele, in unison with the artificial Obama, who eerily and convincingly utters the same words.SEE ALSO: Discord just shut down a chat group dedicated to sharing porn videos edited with AI to include celebrities Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Dropbox CEO talks about how he went from rejecting Steve Jobs to an $11 billion IPO [...]



'Everyone thinks he was whacked': New evidence has emerged that a Russian media mogul was beaten to death by hired thugs in Washington

Tue, 27 Mar 2018 14:55:41 -0400

Former British spy Christopher Steele gave the FBI a report that claims the 2015 death of a Russian media czar in Washington, DC was the result of a deadly beating by Russian state security officers. The death had previously been ruled an accident by police investigators. The victim, Mikhail Lesin, founded the state-funded pro-Russia network RT. The alleged murder took place days before Lesin was supposed to meet with Justice Department investigators. According to a report given to the FBI, the suspicious 2015 death of a major player in Russian media was not an accident as was originally reported, but rather the result of a beating by hired thugs that went wrong, according to BuzzFeed. The report was apparently written by former British spy Christopher Steele, who is most famous for writing a dossier about President Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia that was released in January of last year. Steele wrote the other report before he started investigating Trump's ties to Russia, and claimed that Mikhail Lesin, who founded the state-funded Russian network RT, was killed after a Russian oligarch whom Lesin had fallen out with ordered him to be beaten. Lesin was found dead in his DuPont Circle hotel in Washington, DC on the morning of November 5, 2015. Almost a year later, in late 2016, the Washington, DC police closed their investigation, concluding that Lesin died after a series of drunken falls. Steele had been a trusted source for the FBI and other agencies for years on all Russia-related matters, and it remains unclear how federal authorities used his information.  According to those close to him, Lesin, who was reportedly nicknamed "the Bulldozer" during his work as Russian President Vladimir Putin's press minister, was indeed known to go on alcoholic binges. But an FBI agent who spoke with the publication said it was no secret within the bureau that the Russian government had been behind his murder. "What I can tell you is that there isn't a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died," the agent told BuzzFeed in 2017. "Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it." A former CIA intelligence officer echoed the agent's statement. "It's really hard to imagine that it was an innocent death," he said. "Everybody I know who's a professional and dealt with Russia — the immediate assumption is that he was murdered." Key facts from Steele's report and the details of the police probe The DC Metropolitan Police department said in a statement that it would "certainly reinvestigate should additional evidence be brought to light." Here are the key points that BuzzFeed has uncovered about Lesin's death and the subsequent investigation: The oligarch who hired people to beat up Lesin did not intend for him to die, but the assault apparently went too far. Lesin's death took place just before he was slated to sit down for an interview with the Justice Department, which wanted to speak to him about the workings of RT. Three other individuals besides Steele told the FBI that Lesin had been murdered by Russian security agents. The police department released a 58-page report on Lesin's death in December that had significant redactions and made no mention of the coroner's findings that Lesin had died of blunt force trauma all over his body. The hotel security footage from a camera outside Lesin's room that should have recorded three critical hours before he died was found to be defective. The Metropolitan Police refused to tell BuzzFeed whether they had ever managed to review this footage. These findings about Lesin's death come on the heels of international outrage of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter in the United Kingdom. UK authorities blamed the Russian government for the attack. Numerous countries, including the US, expelled Russian diplomats over the incident this week.SEE ALSO: Thousands of angry, distraught Russians prot[...]



BuzzFeed wants to build a roster of new brands just like Tasty

Tue, 27 Mar 2018 12:01:00 -0400

BuzzFeed has hired Melinda Lee as the company's first chief content officer for Buzzfeed Media Brands. Lee comes to the digital publisher from Meredith, where she ran the traditional media stalwart's video efforts. At BuzzFeed, Lee will focus on the company's growing portfolio of spinoff publications, including Tasty, Nifty and Playfull. As BuzzFeed looks to expand its growing roster of brands, the digital publisher is looking to the traditional media world for some help. The company is set to name Melinda Lee as its first chief content officer for BuzzFeed Media Brands. Lee, who will join BuzzFeed in late April, was most recently senior vice president and general manager of video at the Meredith Corporation, which owns a wide array of consumer magazine, digital properties and TV stations. In December, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced a new structure for the company, along with several layoffs. The new setup broke out BuzzFeed News and its video operation BuzzFeed Studios into standalone groups, and also created BuzzFeed Media Brands. That group includes Tasty, the cooking-themed brand that has become a breakout for BuzzFeed, as well as the healthy food publication Goodful, the parents-aimed Playfull (a joint venture with NBCUniversal), the fashion-focused Nifty and the beauty content vertical As/Is. It's this budding roster that Lee will look to grow and expand. She told Business Insider that she was drawn to the role as an opportunity to experiment with new content forms and unique business models. Recently BuzzFeed has pushed into e-commerce, for example, while also inking a deal to sell Tasty-branded products with Walmart. It's a somewhat different approach than a mature company like Meredith. "It's no secret that for Meredith, it's about creating shareholder value. You're not out there just experimenting. Everything needed to make sense from an ROI perspective," Lee said. "What they were really good at was looking at content that was evergreen and something that audiences will always care about." Now the plan is to take what she learned at the traditional media giant and blend that with social media know-how and analytics. "What’s really attractive to me is really being able to utilize this strong digital network, tap into audience data, look for the gaps and create content that will resonate with consumers," she said. "I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more brands from BuzzFeed."Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump tried to cut a secret deal with Planned Parenthood — here's what happened [...]



A respected analyst says BuzzFeed's brutal jobs cull shows it is caught in a 'perfect storm' of 4 problems

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 06:44:46 -0500

Respected media analyst Douglas McCabe, of Enders Analysis, said BuzzFeed's job cull shows it is caught in a "perfect storm." He listed four reasons why the company should be worried, including its plateauing traffic, restless investors, and a content identity crisis. BuzzFeed says it is still growing and is "very well-positioned for 2018." BuzzFeed's jobs cull shows how it is caught in a "perfect storm" of problems, according to a respected media analyst. The media company has laid off 100 staff in recent weeks, 39 of whom worked in the UK. The redundancies have been quick and clean, with trade union the National Union of Journalists describing them as "brutal." Douglas McCabe, CEO of UK media analyst Enders Analysis, said the cuts show that "a number of issues have come to engulf BuzzFeed all at once." A BuzzFeed spokeswoman said the company is still growing and is "very well-positioned for 2018." McCabe broke BuzzFeed's "perfect storm" down into four areas: 1. BuzzFeed's audience is "plateauing" ComScore figures show US readership fell nearly 17% from 80 million unique users in December 2015 to 66.5 million in December 2017. It's a similar story in the UK. BuzzFeed prefers Nielsen figures, which include Facebook and YouTube video views, and provide what it believes is a more accurate picture of its social-first strategy. BuzzFeed shared with Business Insider data for August to December 2017 — and it's a steady upward curve. BuzzFeed's US audience stood at 145.7 million in August, rose to 163.1 million in October, and fell to 158.3 million in December, according to Nielsen. It represents growth of nearly 9% over the five-month period. BuzzFeed also pointed to data from Tubular Labs, which analyses social and video audience. It showed it that BuzzFeed was the number one "cross-platform media and entertainment property" for 11 months last year. 2. BuzzFeed has lost "market share" in digital advertising It is well-known that BuzzFeed missed its revenue targets last year, coming in 15-20% short of its $350 million (£245 million) goal. CEO Jonah Peretti has been realistic about the company's performance, telling the Columbia Journalism Review last week: "I would say we had a good year but not a great year." Specifically, he admitted that some of the products it offered advertisers did not deliver enough return because they were labour intensive and more closely resembled TV adverts than BuzzFeed's social roots. "There was demand from the market but it wasn’t an area where we felt we had enough of a competitive advantage, and it was something that was really underperforming relative to other products we had," Peretti said. It has sought to address this by launching programmatic and display advertising for the first time last year. "We figured that there are also ways we can generate additional revenue from all the content we’re creating that don’t take a lot of extra effort," Peretti said. McCabe said the advertising issues are far from unique to BuzzFeed. "The businesses that will be able to continue growing digital advertising are those with enormous scale, or those with almost entirely logged-in usage. In other words, you need to know who your users are — it makes an enormous difference to advertisers," he explained. 3. The company could be "losing investor sentiment" BuzzFeed's backers include NBCUniversal and Hearst, but McCabe thinks they could be getting restless about the company's prospects. He said there may be a creeping realisation among investors that what started as a tech venture in 2006 has grown up into more of a traditional media company, with all the higher costs that entails. "BuzzFeed has perhaps assumed they can grow top-line revenue at the same rate as in the glory days and investors have maybe just started to change their view of what is possible. Not just in terms of top-line growth, but also the cost base," he explained. 4. Bu[...]



Inside BuzzFeed UK's 'brutal' jobs cull, where almost a third of staff were laid off after the site overreached

Mon, 29 Jan 2018 02:00:00 -0500

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti admits the company "invested more than we should have earlier than we should have" in the UK. The NBCUniversal-backed firm made 39 British staff redundant in January, 23 of whom worked in the newsroom. A further 60 lost their jobs in the US. The job cuts were quick and clean, as staff left with what a source described as "extremely generous" redundancy packages. The upheaval is not over, however, and Business Insider understands that the company is looking to vacate its swanky London offices because they are too expensive. Despite the difficulties, BuzzFeed's reporting has still set the agenda in January. Late last week, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti admitted that his company overreached in its mission to figure out the future of journalism in the UK. To an extent, he was acknowledging the obvious. BuzzFeed UK had just laid off 39 of its 140 employees when he told the Columbia Journalism Review that "we invested more than we should have earlier than we should have" during a "tough business climate" in Britain. Sources in the company speaking to Business Insider fleshed out the situation, describing a bleak process which saw almost a third of the company shown the door in a few weeks. Peretti's admission comes against a backdrop of missed revenue targets last year — BuzzFeed fell 15-20% short of its $350 million (£247 million) goal — and declining traffic. ComScore figures show BuzzFeed UK hovering at just over 10 million unique users towards the end of 2017, down 20% since January 2015 (see chart below). BuzzFeed does, however, consider itself a multiplatform publisher and its website traffic is not its only measure of success. Business Insider has spoken to a number of BuzzFeed UK insiders coming to terms with the unexpected severity of the cuts after Editor-in-Chief Janine Gibson once said there's a "genuine sense that we might just be figuring out the future of journalism over here." The redundancies were part of a global cull of 100 jobs, and the full scale of the impact on the UK was made clear in early December. US Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith originally said around 20 people would be affected in Britain, but this figure was revised up to 40 when the London newsroom was brought up to speed a week later. The Christmas party was also swiftly cancelled. Insiders were floored by the news. Thirty-nine of 140 UK staff left, 23 of whom worked in the newsroom. Business Insider compiled this list of those willing to go public with their departure. By the middle of January, there was a flurry of "last day at BuzzFeed" tweets, as journalists publicly said their farewells. In most cases, it was quick and clean (although not as brusque as in the US where staff were shown the door on the same day as the cuts were announced). BuzzFeed dished out "extremely generous" redundancy packages, according to one source, in exchange for silence from those involved with non-disclosure agreements. This kind of arrangement is not unusual in Britain if golden goodbyes exceed statutory requirements. BuzzFeed targeted some obvious areas. Gone are its full-time staff in Scotland, while the website’s British science desk has been shut down. A layer of what an insider called "ceremonial" management was also stripped out, with founding editor-in-chief and Head of European Growth, Luke Lewis, the highest-profile departure. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) was on hand to assist members (there were around 44 at the company prior to the cuts) with legal advice, but said the redundancy programme was "brutal," and carried out without "any meaningful consultation." Staff are still fighting for union recognition at BuzzFeed UK and the case is currently with the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), which will help define the terms of a group bargaining unit. Two of the most prominent voices in the campaign for union recognition, Science Editor Kelly Oakes[...]



BuzzFeed posted a bizarre theory that Starbucks' holiday cups 'might have a gay agenda' (SBUX)

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 18:23:03 -0500

  BuzzFeed published a story asking if Starbucks' holiday cups are "totally gay."  Starbucks' ad promoting its holiday drinks features two women holding hands over coffee. The article quotes a "gay BuzzFeed colleague" who attests to the "lesbianism of The Hands."    BuzzFeed has proposed a bizarre theory: Starbucks' 2017 holiday cups showcase a lesbian couple — and are "totally gay."  "While people who follow both Starbucks holiday cup news and LGBT issues celebrated the video, the ordinary Starbucks customer probably didn't realize the cup might have a gay agenda," BuzzFeed News reported in an article with the headline "Is Starbucks' New Holiday Cup Totally Gay?"  The article continued: "'I can attest to the lesbianism of The Hands,' my gay BuzzFeed colleague said upon careful inspection." The article featured the image of Starbucks' 2017 cup, with "GAY?" written on it in purple letters. Reporter Venessa Wong did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for more info on why BuzzFeed decided to publish this article. Starbucks' ad promoting its holiday drinks features several couples, including two women holding hands over coffee.  width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/53EgSWqQOwE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> BuzzFeed noted that a few people on Twitter have theorized that there was a lesbian couple on the cup this year.     Since Starbucks launched holiday cups in 1997, its red cups have become a holiday mainstay — and a source of controversy. In 2015, the coffee giant faced backlash when it debuted minimalist red cups that some complained weren't "Christmas-y" enough.SEE ALSO: Starbucks' holiday cups are here — and they aren't red Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside Cook Out, the South's most underrated restaurant [...]



BuzzFeed sent this memo to its staff addressing harassment allegations against its employees

Tue, 24 Oct 2017 12:29:32 -0400

BuzzFeed sent a note to its employees affirming its commitment to fighting sexual harassment following the release of the "Sh---- Media Men" list. The company has been investigating allegations of harassment by its employees. BuzzFeed News sent an internal memo on Tuesday to employees affirming the company's commitment to preventing and stopping sexual harassment after several of its staffers appeared on a Google spreadsheet titled "Sh---- Media Men." Earlier this month, BuzzFeed published a story about the spreadsheet, which listed allegations raging from verbal and physical harassment to sexual abuse. The allegations were made against individuals from a variety of publications. The accusations were made anonymously — the list emphasized that the accusations were "allegations and rumors," and that they should be taken with "a grain of salt." In an internal memo sent to BuzzFeed employees, Chief People Officer Lenke Taylor said the company looks into "all allegations of harassment and related conduct" and acts on them accordingly. "We are a company that deeply values equality, diversity, and individuality," Taylor wrote in the memo obtained by Business Insider. "We know that we thrive individually and collectively when everyone at BuzzFeed feels safe and respected. We do not tolerate harassment of any kind." Taylor also said that non-managers will receive "workplace conduct" trainings in the next several months, and that the company had "confidentially investigated and acted on incidents raised in the past." The memo was released after the company began investigating the anonymous allegations of harassment by its employees. Half a dozen BuzzFeed employees appeared on a version of the spreadsheet viewed by Business Insider. Read the full memo below: Dear BuzzFeeders, I’m reaching out to address the many conversations that are happening in and outside of BuzzFeed about sexual harassment in the workplace, particularly in media. We are a company that deeply values equality, diversity, and individuality. We know that we thrive individually and collectively when everyone at BuzzFeed feels safe and respected. We do not tolerate harassment of any kind, and we have a set of policies and processes for reporting and responding to misconduct, which I’d like to lay out here. We look into all allegations of harassment and related conduct, and act on them accordingly. Although the process may vary slightly to comply with local requirements, our US handbook outlines our policy and process starting on page 13. Employees globally can report misconduct to their managers or to HR. If you prefer to stay anonymous, we launched a tip line last year to provide that option. We have confidentially investigated and acted on incidents raised in the past, both via the tip line or to us directly or indirectly. We also hope you’ll take seriously the workplace conduct trainings we provide online and in-person, which took place over the summer for managers in California and are coming up soon for other US managers. Non-managers in the US will receive an invitation from Allison Lucas within the next month to a mandatory online training, and global trainings are coming soon. We are a stronger and more inclusive company when these issues are raised and acted on. And we want to remind you that you should not hesitate to speak confidentially and without fear of retaliation with your manager, your HRBP, or any team leader you feel comfortable with if you experience employee misconduct of any kind. Thank you as always for your hard work and your commitment to BuzzFeed. Best,LenkeSEE ALSO: BuzzFeed is investigating anonymous allegations of harassment by its employees Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Stop b[...]