The Hairpin was a beloved indie women's interest website that ran from 2010 to 2018.
Something happened where the domain owners didn't renew it in time, and a DJ bought it.
Now the site has new spammy content written by AI and its old bylines have been replaced with men's names.
In 2011, the small women's interest blog The Hairpin broke new ground in the field of visual journalism with the iconic post "Women laughing alone with salad."
It was just a collection of stock images of women eating salad, and yet it said more about the state of women and society than hundreds of thousands of words.
That blog post still exists, but instead of Edith Zimmerman's byline, it says it was written by "James Nolen" (who almost certainly does not exist) and has a bunch of AI-written text all about how "women laughing alone with salad" is an internet phenomenon and meme.
Across the site, other AI-generated articles and wonky things seem to appear, and there's a spooky deadness: Something bad happened here.
Wired got to the bottom of what happened: The domain for "thehairpin.com" was accidentally not renewed by its owners, and was bought by someone who snatches up recently expired domains to turn them into zombie sites that can grab ad revenue.
Kate Knibbs reports:
In an attempt to understand the future of media, I tracked down The Hairpin's new owner — a Serbian DJ named Nebojša Vujinović Vujo. He says the site is just the latest title in his stable of over 2,000 websites and admits that the majority of the new posts on The Hairpin are indeed AI-generated. "I buy new websites almost every day," he says. Vujinović Vujo was attracted to The Hairpin because of its "great reputation and excellent backlinks," which he values because it helps with Google rankings. "It's a common thing on the internet today." He plans to "add all previous authors" back to the website in the future. His first priority, though, is ginning up more new algorithm-generated content.
Vujo didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from BI emailed to the address listed on the site.
The Hairpin, which was a companion site for The Awl, and a launching pad for writers like Jia Tolentino, Anne Helen Petersen, and Jazmine Hughes, shut down in 2018, but its website and archives were still up.
It's important to note that while the domain name seems to have been bought fair and square when the renewal lapsed, the new owner typically doesn't have rights to, or ownership of, any of the website's content.
Choire Sicha, a cofounder of the Awl Network, which published The Hairpin, told Business Insider that they have sent a letter to the domain's new owner.
It's not clear how Vujo was able to access The Hairpin's content. Sicha says they're still trying to figure it out.
"This entity or person did not purchase The Hairpin," he told Business Insider. "They obtained a domain name. That does not mean they're entitled to things previously published on that website."
Read the original article on Business Insider