Laughing all the way to the bank
If you clicked on or shared that fake news story about Hillary Clinton saying in 2013 that she wished "honest" men like Donald Trump would run for president, or the one that says "your prayers have been answered" because the FBI says Clinton will be indicted in 2017, some young men in Veles, Macedonia — population 45,000 — would like to thank you. At least 140 U.S. politics websites, most of them repackaging fake or misleading news to U.S. political conservatives, have been set up in the town over the past year, BuzzFeed News reports, and it has led to "a digital gold rush" for the teenagers and young men who got in the Trump news game early enough.
The young men behind sites like WorldPolititcus.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com earn up to $5,000 a month, or more if their articles go viral in the U.S. on Facebook. While many of these digital entrepreneurs also run health sites aimed at the U.S. market, they discovered — after experimenting with Bernie Sanders and other left-leaning content — that fake news about Donald Trump was their ticket to relative wealth. "People in America prefer to read news about Trump," the 16-year-old Macedonian who runs BVANews.com tells BuzzFeed.
The biggest hits for these Macedonian sites are false or misleading articles, and the Macedonian millennials are responsible for much of the hyper-partisan fake news littering up Facebook, BuzzFeed says. The Macedonians interviewed for the article don't care about Trump except as a vehicle for making money. "If Trump loses I plan to redirect my site to sports," one teenager said. A Veles university student added: "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.'" As economist Noah Smith noted:
The glut of fake news isn't great for U.S. political culture, of course, and not all of it is from Macedonia. Earlier this week, Samantha Bee posted her eye-opening interview with two Russian state-sponsored internet trolls who spend their days posting inflammatory comments on Facebook and otherwise messing with the U.S. election on social media. You can watch that below, and read more about the Macedonians at BuzzFeed News. Peter Weber