BuzzFeed News just uncovered the source of a slew of false news stories that have gained massive views and shares from unwitting Donald Trump supporters throughout the election.
"A good chunk of the world thinks Macedonia is primitive, but that is not true," an anonymous 17-year-old reported to BuzzFeed from Veles. A group of young men living in the Macedonian city have been earning up to $3,000 a day using fake news website domains and sensationalist Trump-related headlines through Facebook and Google AdSense revenue.
Trump supporters have been sharing these outrageous stories like crazy all year, garnering hundreds of thousands of shares from a group of anonymous and enterprising teenagers thousands of miles away.
"Yes, the info in the blogs is bad, false, and misleading but the rationale is that 'if it gets the people to click on it and engage, then use it,'" an unnamed university student explained. Buzzfeed has now identified over 100 of these fake news sites being run out of Veles.
The sites have legitimate-sounding names like WorldPoliticus.com, USConservativeToday.com, and USADailyPolitics.com, but even a minute on the site reveals un-cited claims and outlandish headlines that could be debunked by a simple Google search. Sometimes, the bloggers simply copy and paste real news content and add a false headline to draw clicks from Facebook, making the line between false and reliable news sources even more blurry.
While it may be tempting to laugh at the gullibility of Trump's supporters, stories like these may have been adding fuel to their vitriolic fire throughout the election year. One story on ConservativeState.com claims that Hillary Clinton's house was just raided by the FBI, another sinister story on WorldPoliticus.com asserts that Clinton bribed Summer Zervos with $500,000 to falsely accuse Trump of sexually assaulting her. These false stories muddying the water may have provided justification for Trump supporters to believe Trump's claim that the mainstream media covers up stories of Clinton's corruption.
The young Macedonians say that they are running these sites purely for the money and only targeted Trump supporters in response to their success with the demographic. Earlier attempts to fleece Bernie Sanders supporters this year were apparently not as lucrative.
"In Macedonia the economy is very weak and teenagers are not allowed to work, so we need to find creative ways to make some money," one teen confided. "Here in Macedonia the revenue from a small site is enough to afford many things."
Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @BuzzFeedUK