One of the original kings of fake news thinks he might have helped get Trump elected, and he’s not happy about it.
38-year-old Paul Horner, who runs a network of viral fake-news site (he calls them satire), has been making a living off the practice for years. And he’s big. He says he makes $10,000 per month from Google’s AdSense alone, the source of most of his revenue.
But Horner says that with the rise of Trump, fake news has reached a whole new level.
“It’s real scary,” he told The Washington Post. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time,” Horner continued. “I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they will 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.”
Facebook and Google have been forced to grapple with their fake-news problem since Trump’s election put them in the spotlight.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed the idea that fake news on Facebook influenced the election.
“Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook — it’s a very small amount of the content — influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea,” he said at a conference after the election.
But others aren’t so sure. A recent study by BuzzFeed showed that in the lead-up to the election, the top fake-news stories on Facebook outperformed legitimate news stories shared by some of the most popular media companies.
The most concrete steps Google and Facebook have taken so far is a move to ban fake-news sites from their ad networks. The rationale: if you cut off the economic incentive, people will stop making the hoaxes.
Horner admitted that the prospect of Google turning off the AdSense money jet was “pretty scary,” though he said there were ways he would try and work around it.
“But if it did really go away … I don’t know what I would do,” he said.