Despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s initial defense of his platform against claims it left fake news unchecked, thereby guiding Donald Trump to his election victory, both Facebook and Google have initiated crack downs against the viral peddlers. Unfortunately, these new measures have been deemed “too little, too late” by critics — especially since new information suggests that dishonest aggregators and hyperpartisan blogs generated far more traffic than legitimate news sources.
The majority of these propaganda-churning websites are based outside the United States, but as a revealing new article in the Washington Post reveals, just as many were housed right in the heart of America. And many of them are owned and operated by Paul Horner, a 38-year-old Facebook fake news entrepreneur whose name may sound familiar. (He convinced all of the Internet back in 2014 that anonymous artist Banksy had been arrested and exposed.) Post writer Caitlin Dewey spoke with Horner about his business and what effects (if any) it had on the election, and his responses are quite revealing — if not downright frightening.
Among other things, Horner boasts his social media-based network of fake news sites helped put Trump in the White House. Why? Because many of the President-elect’s most trusted advisers and surrogates shared links to many of his most successful stories, which were devoured by Trump’s trusting fanbase:
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.
He even goes so far as to argue “people are definitely dumber” — Trump supporters especially. “They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore,” says Horner, adding: “It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.”