When the Arizona Monitor endorsed Republican Senate candidate Kelli Ward last fall, her campaign quickly touted the news on Facebook. Only, there was one problem: The Arizona Monitor isn't a real publication. It is an "anonymous, pro-Ward blog" that "launched just a few weeks before publishing the endorsement, and its domain registration is hidden, masking the identity of its owner," Politico reports.
In other words, the Arizona Monitor is the very definition of fake news.
You can't be blamed for having assumed differently: In a media landscape populated by websites with names like InfoWars, Liberty Writers News, and UndergroundNewsReport.com, it is usually fairly easy to discern publications that might push an agenda with false stories. That sniff test is no longer reliable, though, Politico reports:
The Arizona Monitor seems to be part of a growing trend of conservative political-messaging sites with names that mimic those of mainstream news organizations and whose favored candidates then tout their stories and endorsements as if they were from independent journalists. It's a phenomenon that spans the country from northern New England, where the anonymous Maine Examiner wreaked havoc on a recent mayoral election, all the way out to California, where Rep. Devin Nunes launched — as reported by Politico — his own so-called news outlet, the California Republican. [Politico]
The director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, described the method as "basically … an appropriation of credibility." Read more about how fake news websites are designed to trick you, and who might be behind them, at Politico.