YouTube comedian and writer Akilah Hughes has begun an all-out social media assault against the team behind Buzzfeed Video, after accusing the media giant’s video strand of plagiarising content from herself and various other creators.
Last January, Akilah uploaded a video to YouTube titled “How To Be An Introvert — According to Tumblr”; a parody based on the commentary of “introvert behaviour”. This week, she spotted a new release from Buzzfeed Video on their channel, titled “A Perfect Weekend For Introverts” – which included similar attributes to Akilah’s video, such as the thumbnail and a particular shot sequence.
Akilah’s original video currently has just over 60,000 views, while Buzzfeed’s version has already exceeded 555,000 – which, when you consider the consequential ad revenue, is an extra sharp sting for Akilah, who is currently fundraising to help pay for her medical treatment against Lyme disease.
L: Akilah’s original video, R: Buzzfeed Video’s equivalent. [Medium|@AkilahObviously]
“Beyond the obvious cut-and-paste of BuzzFeed lies a deeper issue; they are making millions of dollars from corporations who aren’t well-versed enough to know that their work is fraudulent,” states Akilah in her Medium article, aimed at Buzzfeed Video’s advertising partners.
Akilah also references multiple other instances in which Buzzfeed have allegedly lifted content from other sources: including their “Can You Waffle It?” video, which borrows from Daniel Shumski’s book “Will It Waffle?”, and their wildly popular “100 Years Of…” series, which is a direct copy of Cut.com’s viral hit “100 Years Of Beauty”.
L: Cut.com’s original video, R: Buzzfeed Video’s equivalent. [Medium|@AkilahObviously]
Akilah’s campaign against Buzzfeed Video has inspired the hashtag #StopBuzzThieves, which also includes allegations from numerous sources that various editors from the site are guilty of plagiarising Tweets and Tumblr posts on their own accounts. Akilah has also created a Change.org petition, directed towards Google and the brands that sponsor Buzzfeed Video, asking them to reconsider their support.
While currently the most focused and driven, Akilah’s beef with Buzzfeed Video is by no means the first – in fact, there are several anecdotes from other independent creators and former employees, each with individual claims of ill-practice within the production team and the company as a whole.
Just last week, comedian and former Buzzfeed employee Gaby Dunn wrote a long-form piece on Fusion detailing the end of her relationship with the company, and the firing of two other colleagues from Buzzfeed Video – after the company’s iron-clad non-compete contract prevented them from pursuing other creative projects outside of the company.
“There was a constant push-and-pull about how much we could do outside of Buzzfeed and how much other projects would take time from our full-time jobs,” admits Gaby. “Even the concept of “time” was up for debate. I stayed because I felt trapped.”
In support of Akilah and Gaby, vlogger Kat Blaque also shared her various experiences with Buzzfeed this week, including a particular event in which she and several other transgender creators were recruited to brainstorm trans content for the site – without being compensated for their time.
“Stories of marginalized minorities are profitable stories,” admits Kat. “Buzzfeed has a way of putting content out that ultimately causes controversy and then that controversy cycles back into their pockets even when they’ve done wrong.”
Buzzfeed Video’s exec producer Ella Mielniczenko initially responded openly to Akilah’s allegations, claiming that the producer of the ‘Perfect Weekend For Introverts’ video took inspiration from one of their own pieces of content from 2013. Akilah and Ella have since made contact to resolve the dispute in private.
But even still, Akilah continues to Retweet, highlight and debate over an increasing number of instances of alleged plagiarism by Buzzfeed on her Twitter.