BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Explains Why He Published Unverified Report About Trump and Russia

On Tuesday night, BuzzFeed News published a collection of unverified documents that link President-elect Donald Trump to Russian operatives.

One such claim asserts that Trump has been aided and supported by Russia for at least five years, while another states that Trump had been fed information from the Kremlin about Hillary Clinton.

BuzzFeed itself acknowledged in the preface to the original story that the report contains not only unverified information, but that it also contains several errors.

The document, supposedly compiled by a British intelligence agent, was prepared for Trump’s political opponents, per BuzzFeed.

The decision to publish an unverified document with such serious claims was defended by BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith in a letter to his colleagues, which was released last night:

President-elect Donald Trump was quick to respond to the unverified dossier:

BuzzFeed is a notoriously outspoken critic of Donald Trump, having banned pro-Trump ads last year.

CEO Jonah Peretti said the following about the then-presidential candidate:

“The Trump campaign is directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world and in some cases, such as his proposed ban on international travel for Muslims, would make it impossible for our employees to do their jobs.”

Last month, Ben Smith penned a year-end memo to his staff and detailed how the publication will cover President-elect Trump in 2017:

“We will cover the hell out of the president and the administration as we have covered him all along — fairly and without making compromises for access. But we’ll break through most where we can seize the initiative ourselves: Report something nobody else has found or observed, clearly, fairly, and credibly.”

Furthermore, Smith touched on the issue of “fake news” and addressed the role his publication plays in disseminating information across the web:

“Fake news will become more sophisticated, and fake, ambiguous, and spun-up stories will spread widely. Hoaxes will have higher production value,” said Smith.

“[BuzzFeed is] better than anyone at understanding how stories travel and the role platforms play, at telling these stories clearly and accurately and at debunking the false ones.”

Despite Smith’s claim that BuzzFeed sought to “let Americans decide for themselves,” many were unconvinced that the decision to publish the dossier was the correct call:

BuzzFeed has yet to issue any amendments or retractions to its initial report.

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