Buzzfeed admits deleting Microsoft, Pepsi & Unilever articles under advertiser pressure

Buzzfeed has owned up to deleting three posts after coming under advertiser pressure, following an internal audit overseen by the entertainment and news platform’s editor in chief, Ben Smith.

The investigation concluded that editors had pulled posts relating to Microsoft, Pepsi and Unilever products after either facing either direct criticism from the advertisers or indirectly following representations from the company’s own sales team.

The three ads in question included a 2013 post criticising an advert for Axe body spray after the advertising firm behind it said the piece accused it of ‘advocating mass murder.’ A second post concerning Internet Explorer was removed following concerns of a conflict of interest between the author and their previous role with Microsoft.

A third case centred on a report into brands Twitter engagement ahead of the SuperBowl, which was critical of Pepsi’s efforts at a time when they were being courted for advertising.

An internal memo circulated by the publisher conceded that articles critical of products or advertisements produced by the trio had been expunged and comes just weeks after two other articles, one relating to Unilever’s Dove Soap and the other to toy manufacturer Hasbro, were reinstated after Smith admitted they should never have been pulled.

In all the report found 1,112 posts had been deleted for a multitude of reasons including ‘technical error’, although the bulk of these were not produced by the sites own editorial department.

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