My Yahoo news page came up with the following headline, recently: “Bernie Sanders followers are among the smartest… They don’t believe anything. The post must have proof…” I didn’t read further. I’m not a Bernie Sanders fan, though some of my Facebook friends have turned him into a cult figure just as Trump supporters have done with the president. Any day now, I expect both camps to pack their bags and head for Jonestown, Guyana. (click)
By a quirk of fate, I saw the Bernie Sanders quote a second time in an article by Samanth Subramanian. (“Fake” Wired, March 2017 pgs. 72.) According to him, the line is an invention of Boris (no last name) who lives in Veles, Macedonia, a town formerly famous for being the most polluted in the country. Now it’s a hot bed for youths who, having no employment, make their living creating fake news. Each has multiple websites run by phantom figures with fake names. Russian identities cost these young entrepreneurs 10 cents a pop. An American profile costs them 50 cents.
With numerous fake identities, the youths generate fake news articles, interesting enough to catch eyeballs. Their goal is to attract advertisers to their pages. When Boris wrote about Bernie Sanders, he cared nothing about the outcome of the American election. He wanted a BMW, like the one belonging to his buddy. One youth is so skilled at generating an audience, he chargers others $475 to learn how.
Given time for reflection, Boris can see the down side of what he’s doing. His enterprise and that of his pals, may have tipped the scales on an American election. Now, he moans “some crazy man has won… Maybe the guy will start World War III.” (Ibid pg. 77.) If he’s right, I hope Boris looks good in a military uniform.
The young man’s awakening is timely. Google and Facebook have received so any complaints about fake news, they have developed algorithms to make it harder for people like him to operate. Two of his most lucrative sites — NewYorkTimesPolitics.com and USAPolitics.com — have already been taken down.
Advertisers are catching on, too. Says Ian Leslies of the Financial Times, (Excerpted in The Week, March 17, 2017, pg. 38) buyers are beginning to wonder what they are getting for their money. The chief brand officer for Proctor & Gamble, the world’s biggest advertiser, “came close to accusing the digital industry of perpetuating a massive con.” (Ibid pg. 38.) That growing suspicion is another nail in the coffin of the bad boys of Macedonia.