Long before the advent of clickbait fake news created by Macedonian spammers leading up to the 2016 presidential election, there were a group of people creating similar stories here in the United States. These sites include Occupy Democrats, Addicting Info, US Uncut, American News X, Liberal America, Freakout Nation, Bipartisan Report, and others in their circle of associates.
The formula was very predictable, and easy to exploit on social media – especially Facebook. Create a page that sounds like a political cause such as Occupy Democrats, buy some likes from overseas social media farms, drive traffic to their websites, and then collect checks every month from the advertising revenue sources implemented on these sites.
Once other people saw the potential for revenue when the Macedonians began to exploit Google Adsense and Facebook, a myriad of other sites aimed at both the right and the left sprung up. We now have a glut of websites like Resistance Report, GOP The Daily Dose, Palmer Report, Daily News Bin, Allen West’s site, and Unbiased America – just to name a few.
Alternet covered this problem today, which is one of the first times a left-leaning site other than ones I’ve been associated have addressed it.
Anyone who has a Facebook page and pays attention to politics—and shares with a circle of friends—has seen the vampires’ work. Even professionals in media, information technology and progressive politics often share posts and links to affiliated sites such as Occupy Democrats (5.9 million Facebook likes and 1.1 million monthly U.S. viewers on its website, according to Quantcast), The Other 98% (4.5 million Facebook likes; its related The Other 98 Percent Action Fund has 214,000 monthly U.S. viewers) and USUncut (1.5 million Facebook likes and 2.8 million monthly viewers). Indeed, there are hundreds of other pages and sites like these, such as Addicting Info, with 1.2 million Facebook likes, Liberal America with 754,000 Facebook likes, and a new six-week-old Facebook page, Resistance Report, with 144,000 Facebook likes. (Alternet)
This problem has been around for years. I first wrote about it back in 2012 after I found a former admin and owner of Addicting Info swiping content I had created to promote his website and Facebook page. When I confronted him on it, I was subjected to years of cyberstalking by people Matthew Desmond Kerry used to harass myself and other people who worked with me or shared my work. If you need further proof, read comments left by these individuals on the previously linked article, and this one about my time at Forward Progressives.
I’m obviously not a journalist. I’m more of a blogger/political activist who also likes to troll the far-right for kicks. I don’t have the monthly overhead that publications such as the New York Times or NBC have. Trips like the one I took to cover Bernie Sanders last weekend in Mississippi comes out of my pocket, and I’m completely fine with that – because I’m not in this for the money or an internet celebrity status.
These websites are in it for profit, and nothing else as far as I can tell. They do not promote real causes, or even donate to political candidates. Their brand of “news” is little else than rewriting or outright plagiarizing stories from other sources, sometimes even right-wing conspiracy sites like Natural News to play both sides of the aisle.
They employ such dishonest methods as artificially inflating their SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to appear first in Google searches, or using “brigades” to push their stories to the front page of Reddit. Sometimes their rewrite of a real report from the New York Times shows up more than the original source on Facebook, or higher on Reddit’s front page which takes away revenue from the people who spent time and money on doing the actual investigation.
This funnels money away from legitimate news sources, which in turn lessens the ability for the New York Times or NBC to investigate political scandals. The mainstream media cannot survive like this, especially when Occupy Democrats has more Facebook likes (real or bought) than MSNBC.
I’m sure the usual suspects will show up in the comments to call me “jealous” or obsessed, but the facts speak for themselves. If we demand honest media, then we need to read and share from the original sources, not the clickbait sites that rip them off.