At least 100 pro-Trump websites are being run from a single town in Macedonia (a little known country just north of Greece in an area called the Balkans, which is where the term Balkanization comes from). And these foreign websites are feeding false pro-Trump news to Trump supporters. How did this happen?
It is all about money. They do this so that they get shares and likes from Facebook, which is a fast way to make advertising money. The sites don’t actually care about the US election, they are just taking advantage of Trump supporters who will believe anything anyone says that is pro-Trump or anti-Clinton, no matter how outrageous or obviously false.
“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,’” said a university student in Veles [Macedonia] who started a US politics site, and who agreed to speak on the condition that BuzzFeed News not use his name.
Many of these sites are run by teenagers. For example:
“I started the site for a easy way to make money,” said a 17-year-old who runs a site with four other people. “In Macedonia the economy is very weak and teenagers are not allowed to work, so we need to find creative ways to make some money. I’m a musician but I can’t afford music gear. Here in Macedonia the revenue from a small site is enough to afford many things.”
Some sites have been created with left-leaning content, including Bernie Sanders, but they didn’t make nearly as much money as pro-Trump sites. And almost all of these stories are false.
For example, the most successful post had the headline “Hillary Clinton In 2013: ‘I Would Like To See People Like Donald Trump Run For Office; They’re Honest And Can’t Be Bought.’” In just one week, this post got half a million shares on Facebook. As a comparison, the New York Times article that broke the news that Donald Trump lost close to a billion dollars in 1995 received around 175,000 shares over a month. Of course the Clinton quote is false.
Another highly successful story claims that the pope endorsed Trump. Stories like this generate ad revenue of around $3000 a day.
I guess this is what happens when politics collides with a culture of celebrity like that of Trump.