Apparently there is such a thing called fake news. And the pioneer of this oxymoronic form of pseudo journalism may be regretting indulging in it.
Paul Horner is a 38-year-old who runs a network of viral fake news sites — which he conveniently calls “satire” — and he’s been making a killing off of it.
According to the Washington Post, he makes a staggering $10,000 per month from Google's AdSense alone.
But karma, being the unforgiving force that it is, is coming back to bite Horner as he believes his site may have helped in getting Donald Trump elected.
"My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time," Horner told the Washington Post. "I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don't fact-check anything.”
Back in March, whether knowingly or unknowingly, Trump’s son Eric and his then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, tweeted links to one of Horner’s faux-articles which claimed that the Bernie Sanders Campaign had paid a man $3,500 to protest at Trump’s rallies. The same article was later tweeted by conservative opportunist Anne Coulter.
Fake news has been at the center of a widely-held discussion across the internet since Trump’s surprise election as president.
Since the election, companies such as Facebook and Google have come under the gun for aiding and abetting the spread of fake news generated by people like Horner.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quick to dismiss the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election.
"Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook — it's a very small amount of the content — influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea," he said at a conference after the election.
But a recent study by BuzzFeed showed that in the days and weeks leading up to the election, the top fake-news stories on Facebook outperformed legitimate news stories shared by established and reputed news organizations.
It’s a painful slap in the face of dedicated journalists who work endless hours to make sure that they provide their audience with credible news.
The fact that individuals like Horner not only make up stories out of thin air, but make a lucrative business out of it makes you question how that could even be legal.
Google and Facebook have moved quickly to ban fake-news sites from their ad network. With the financial incentive gone, the problem should solve itself.
Horner admitted that the thought of losing the flow of Google AdSense money was "pretty scary," though he said there were ways he would try and work around it.
Perhaps it’s time Horner went out of business so that he realizes that actions do have consequences and one of them is four years of President Trump.
Banner Photo: Reuters