This Man Thinks His Fake News Empire Is Responsible For Donald Trump Winning The Election, And Here’s Why
In the days following the U.S. Presidential election, there has been a ton of talk about ‘fake news’ being shared across social media and whether or not this tsunami of fake news swayed the election in either direction. For its part, BuzzFeed has been instrumental in tracking down the expansive networks of spammers responsible for the flood of fake news across Facebook, and yesterday they published shocking findings that in the final 4 months of the election completely fake and outlandish news was shared across Facebook more frequently than legitimate news from verified sources.
Journalist Caitlin Dewey over at The Washington Post tracked down one of the kingpins behind the rise of fake news, a man who runs a Fake/Satire news empire, an empire that has amassed him a fortune by disseminating completely false news to people who are none the wiser. In her interview with Paul Horner, the WaPo reporter asked him all sorts of questions about the fake news cycle of this election, if he thinks he had a direct effect on the outcome of the election, and how he feels about that. Let’s check out some excerpts:
WaPo: You mentioned Trump, and you’ve probably heard the argument, or the concern, that fake news somehow helped him get elected. What do you make of that?
Paul Horner: My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.
Mark Zuckerberg would have you believe otherwise. Zuck’s been on the defensive, claiming that the amount of fake election news shared on Facebook was minuscule in comparison to the amount of real news being shared, which if you’ve clicked this BuzzFeed link then you’d have seen by now that people shared fake news more frequently than real news, so Facebook is full of shit in that assertion. Moving on…
Here’s one example of fake news written/shared across the web by Paul Horner, a story that was shared thousands of times:
WaPo: Why? I mean — why would you even write that?
Paul Horner: Just ’cause his supporters were under the belief that people were getting paid to protest at their rallies, and that’s just insane. I’ve gone to Trump protests — trust me, no one needs to get paid to protest Trump. I just wanted to make fun of that insane belief, but it took off. They actually believed it.
I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad].
I want you all to keep reading this interview on The Washington Post because it is extremely fascinating, but before you go I’ve got some more things to say.
I’m going to be honest, it does seem rather outlandish that one man with an empire of fake news websites and huge Facebook pages could’ve swayed the election in one way or the other. But when you consider that most voters had made their minds up on who they’re voting for 1-month prior to the election, and the rise of fake news outpacing real news shared on Facebook went back 4 months before November 8th, then it does start to seem plausible that one person could’ve affected small pockets of voters.
One thing I’ve constantly heard echoed from people since Election Day is the rise in fake news on Facebook was fueled primarily by people’s desires to be proven right. It seems we’ve entered an era in which people are no longer okay with admitting when s/he is wrong, and they’d much rather continue searching Google for that one source that backs up their false claims. This is what fake news did, it gave everyone the cannon fodder in arguing their false assertions (both Democratic and Republican). I genuinely think we’d be living in a better country if we could all admit when we’ve made mistakes, to acknowledge when we’re wrong, and to actually find the root of each source instead of just taking everything on its face value.
With that in mind, there has been a crowd-sourced Google Doc circulating in recent days and it’s a collection of websites you should be very skeptical in reading. If you ever find yourself reading these websites then you owe it to yourself to click through to the sources and find the root of the information. Not because I’m telling you to, but because you’re a grown ass man and you deserve the truth from the media.