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Buzzfeed linked to corruption scandal

The Local · 15 Jun 2015, 14:22

Published: 15 Jun 2015 14:22 GMT+02:00

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The question was raised after an investigation by Vienna-based news agency Central European News (CEN) linked Microsoft with a project that involved paying politicians to ask negative questions about Google.

In April, CEN was accused by Buzzfeed of faking news stories - but the agency’s British owner Michael Leidig has hit back by publishing a book denying the claims and suggesting he is the victim of a smear campaign.

CEN also questioned why Buzzfeed chose to focus its resources on attacking a 'rival' news provider - at a time when it was planning to send out its investigation into the corruption scandal linked to key Buzzfeed advertiser Microsoft.

Buzzfeed’s article described CEN as "one of the Western media’s primary sources of tantalising and attention-grabbing stories". It went on to claim that 11 CEN stories "proved to be completely false or to be based on images that did not match stories".

CEN stories appear frequently in UK tabloid newspapers and their websites. Leidig accepts that a few items sent out by CEN later turned out to be false, but says that they were based on stories which were widely reported in local media at the time. 

"Our own research found that of the 41 stories they singled out, only two were incorrect and two others had incorrect pictures, but all four originated with other media and were therefore not faked by CEN staff,” Leidig said.

CEN also covers serious news as well as the 'viral' style content which Buzzfeed focused on. One story that Leidig was working on involved software giant Microsoft and alleged political corruption - which he pitched to Buzzfeed but received no response.

The Microsoft story included allegations that a former Austrian SPÖ MP was paid to ask negative questions about its rival Google in parliament, in an attempt to modify Austria's stance on Google.

Austrian MP Hans-Jörg Jenewein (FPÖ) said in a question to the Austrian parliament on Friday: "Is the Ministry aware that the news agency Central European News (CEN), operating an office in Vienna, was accused by Buzzfeed of falsifying its reports after Buzzfeed found out that CEN was about to publish a report on the political connections between Kurt Gartlehner and Microsoft?"

In April, Buzzfeed admitted that it had deleted negative articles about Microsoft, Pepsi and Axe bodyspray after concerns raised by its sales staff.

Leidig believes that BuzzFeed has an agenda which motivated its attack on his agency - and says that he cannot understand why it would “use so much manpower and time on an investigation into a rival where they had no leaked documents, no insider, no official probe or victim.”

Leidig's book has now been presented as evidence to the Austrian parliament, so it is now a matter of public record and not liable to any legal action.

Buzzfeed maintains that it “exposed serious and widespread inaccuracies and fabrications in the output of Central European News” and said that it “is strongly committed to the highest standards of responsible journalism”.


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