Fake news creator feels guilty that he may have put Donald Trump in the White House.
The rash of fake news that can be found on the internet inundates social media at such a pace that it’s nearly overpowered and outperformed real news.
According to BuzzFeed, 20 top-performing fake election stories from hoax websites generated 8,711,000 shares, likes, and comments on Facebook. Within that same time frame, 20 highly performing articles from 19 major news sites generated just over seven million shares, likes, and comments.
According to the article:
Two of the biggest false hits were a story claiming Clinton sold weapons to ISIS and a hoax claiming the pope endorsed Trump, which the site removed after publication of this article. The only viral false stories during the final three months that were arguably against Trump’s interests were a false quote from Mike Pence about Michelle Obama, a false report that Ireland was accepting American ‘refugees’ fleeing Trump, and a hoax claiming Ru Paul said he was groped by Trump.
It’s easy to imagine. You’re scrolling through your news feed and see a headline that reads that Ru Paul was groped by Trump, why bother reading it? Just share it. That’s some awesome stuff. But for a platform where 63% of its users consider it their primary news source, it’s a real problem.
Why? Because Facebook, in one example, was responsible for making this tweet the first Google search result for the 2016 election:
And it’s wrong. Clinton won 47.68% of the popular vote with 62,414,338 votes; Trump won 46.79% with 61,252,488 votes, according to CNN, The New York Times, Fox News, Politico, the BBC, and just about every other news site that reported on this election.
How did this happen? When the Washington Post investigated where that information came from, they wrote:
The source behind the “USA Supreme” website isn’t clear. It looks an awful lot like Prntly, a made-up news website we looked at earlier this year. Founded by a former convict named Alex Portelli, Prntly is part of the broad diaspora of websites that takes news about American politics, frames it in a pro-Trump way (often at the expense of accuracy) and then peppers the page with ads.
Then, on Thursday, the “Intersect”, a Washington Post blog, interviewed one of the guys who was putting out the fake news during the campaign and up to the election. Paul Horner is a 38-year-old purveyor of fake news. He claims to have been raking in over $10,000 per month by generating fake news, and he put some amount of effort into it. In one instance, he took out an ad on Craig’s list offering $3500 to anyone who wanted to protest the election. He then wrote an article that protesters were being paid and referred back to the ad.
Horner specifically targeted Trump supports, he told the Post, because “His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything.”
Trump also made the accusation about paid protesters the day after the election, which only perpetuated the falsehood.
Horner, in an apparent moment of culpability, told “Intercept” that he feels partially responsible for Trump being in the White House. “My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time,” he said. “I think Trump is in the White House because of me.”
During the campaign, Trump aides have tweeted out some of Horner’s articles–apparently, without fact checking. In March, Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and Trump’s son Eric Trump both shared a link to a story by Horner about a protester admitting that he was paid to demonstrate at a Trump rally.
Horner said during the interview that he published his hoaxes to make Trump supporters look stupid and was surprised at how popular his articles were. “Honestly, people are definitely dumber,” said said when asked why business was so good for him this year. “They just keep passing stuff around.”
And then he said this, and this is what we all need to pay attention to when we’re posting, tweeting and quoting, because this may very well be one reason why we’re going to have Donald J. Trump in the White House for at least the next four years.
Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I recently wrote a piece about how to identify fake news and even provided links to a couple of Chrome plugins that can help. You can find that here.
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