BuzzFeed News identified more than 100 pro-Trump websites being run from a single town in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
As this blog has pointed out, fake news sites are prevalent across the political spectrum. They aim for the emotional response of their target audience – and generate revenue from click through advertising.
The young Macedonians who run these sites say they don’t care about Donald Trump. They are responding to straightforward economic incentives: As Facebook regularly reveals in earnings reports, a US Facebook user is worth about four times a user outside the US. The fraction-of-a-penny-per-click of US display advertising — a declining market for American publishers — goes a long way in Veles. Several teens and young men who run these sites told BuzzFeed News that they learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook — and the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters.
The NY Times notes (as we did several days ago) they use semi-real sounding web site names for producing false news reports, even hoaxes. Some sites may earn thousands of dollars per month in ad revenue.
Occupy Democrats, with 4 1/4 million page subscribers, is the pre-eminent left wing equivalent of the fake conservative news sites.
The goal in each case is to appeal to fast acting, System 1, emotional thinking part of the brain – to generate a rapid emotional response that leads to likes, shares and click throughs – in order to generate ad revenue. One fake news story can be quickly shared tens of thousands of times by emotionally hyped up targets, generating potentially millions of views. Sufficient click throughs back to the fake news web site deliver eyeballs to advertisers and revenue to the fake news publisher.
Surprisingly, literally millions of people voluntarily “Like” or “Subscribe” to the output of these propaganda web sites.