BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman reported this week that “viral fake election news outperformed real news on Facebook in final months of the US election,” after BuzzFeed surveyed 20 fake stories and 20 real news stories from 19 real news outlets.
One such story that recently is going viral? PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi didn’t tell Trump supporters to “Take their business elsewhere.” The quote originated on fake news sites, with one site, Gateway Pundit, falsely saying PepsiCo’s stock went down, CNN reported.
The Guardian also collected some fake news stories about the U.S. presidential election, including the false claim on 70news that Trump won the popular vote, a fake story that an FBI agent investigating Hillary Clinton’s e-mail was dead, and a fake WTOE 5 News story claiming Pope Francis endorsed Trump.
The FBI agent story was published on the fake news site the Denver Guardian with the headline,”FBI AGENT SUSPECTED IN HILLARY EMAIL LEAKS FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE.” The Denver Post noted that the Denver Guardian’s website was only registered this summer, the city and police chief cited were non-existent, the site had no other stories, and that the site’s physical address was invalid.
Snopes debunked the claim that Pope Francis endorsed Trump this summer, noting the site that hosted it, WTOE 5 News, published fake news.
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After the election, Google and Facebook both said they will prevent ads bought by fake news sites on the platform AdSense. Meanwhile, Google announced it is giving a total of €150,000 to UK fact checking groups Full Fact, The Ferret, and Factmata, the Guardian reported.
The Washington Post interviewed Paul Horner, who has “made his living off viral news hoaxes for several years” and had his stories shared by Google News and Donald Trump’s son and campaign.
“Honestly, people are definitely dumber,” Horner told the Post‘s Caitlin Dewey. “They just keep passing stuff around. 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.”
For example, Horner noted he fabricated a story about someone being paid $3,500 to protest Donald Trump. “I made that up,” he said. “I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.” That didn’t stop the story from being shared by Corey Lewandowski, who was Trump’s campaign manager at the time.
Horner said losing his access to AdSense would affect him as he makes “$10,000 a month from AdSense.”