It's not a knock on BuzzFeed's writers to say that pretty much anybody can write a story there. But if you make fun of them—and you're mean—you're liable to get banned.
That's the lesson Joe Veix learned when he signed up as a community contributor to the site, then wrote a satirical story titled "The Top 10 DUMBEST BuzzFeed Lists You're EMBARRASSED to say you CLICKED."
Veix's story, screengrabbed on his Tumblr, mocked the BuzzFeed tendency to make pretty much anything a list, and some of them weren't any more absurd than the real thing. Nodding to the site's highly criticized "The Story of Egypt’s Revolution in ‘Jurassic Park’ GIFs," Veix added "The 25 HUNKIEST Egyptian Protestors [sic]."
He also switched the site's real-life "This Is the Guy Who Played Barney for Most of Your Childhood" (a "hot" guy, according to the author) with just a picture of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. And Veix mocked BuzzFeed's sponsored posts with a glut of corporate logos titled "Top 20 Sponsored Posts You NEED to See!"
Anybody can sign up to write a post on the site, thanks to its BuzzFeed Community program, though it has to be approved first. The rules aren't immediately clear to new members, but community editor Cates Holderness tweeted, "There's a difference between satire and being mean-spirited."
Veix wrote on his Tumblr that "Within 15 minutes, it was deleted and I was banned from the site," and got sarcastic on Twitter.
Cool, @BuzzFeed just deleted my post, because they're really fun and have a great sense of humor!— Joe Veix (@joeveix) July 9, 2013
BuzzFeed declined to tell the Daily Dot how often they ban users, or to confirm that Veix was banned from making future posts. But BuzzFeed Senior Press Director Ashley McCollum did admit they'd deleted what Veix wrote, telling Poynter, “We are totally game to make fun of ourselves as long as it’s all in good fun."
“This time, it wasn’t, so we decided to remove the post,” she added.
Indeed, BuzzFeed has a history of embracing some critics and rejecting others. In July 2012, McSweeney's published a humor piece titled "Suggested BuzzFeed Listicles," filled with just-beyond-plausible lists like "12 TV Weathermen Who Can’t Feel Pain." But BuzzFeed responded with good humor, and tried to bring some of them, like "10 Peaches That Resemble Pat Sajak," to life.
More recently, the site has seemed more thin-skinned. A few hours after Vanity Fair published an article titled "40 Signs You Are a BuzzFeed Writer Running Out of List Ideas," BuzzFeed politics reporter Andrew Kaczynski went on the defensive, referencing his site's phenomenal popularity:
How's this for a listicle: 60 million unique visitors who didn't see your snarky buzzfeed thought piece.— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) July 11, 2013
Update: BuzzFeed has reinstated the post and revised its "no haters" policy. Criticism of BuzzFeed is no longer grounds for a ban, although attacks on other community members are still not allowed.
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III