Fake election-related news stories generated more engagement on Facebook than real news, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis. The incentive behind these stories isn’t just political: According to one writer, fake stories can generate big cash for the authors behind them.
“You wouldn’t believe how much money I make from it,” said Paul Horner, who has made a living off viral fake news hoaxes, in an interview with The Washington Post. “Right now I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense.”
Guy who writes fake news for Facebook makes $120,000/year
— Mike Baker (@ByMikeBaker) November 17, 2016
Google says that publishers displaying Google AdSense ads on their websites receive 68% of the revenue.
Horner has been responsible for a variety of viral news hoaxes, including a fake news story that went viral about a lawsuit between reviews site Yelp and the TV show “South Park.” Yelp confirmed the story was fake in a tweet.
Horner also wrote a story this year about the Amish committing their vote to Donald Trump, which was tweeted by Trump’s son Eric and then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (both tweets have since been deleted). Horner confirmed to BuzzFeed News the Amish voter story was also fake.
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) November 17, 2016
Both Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google said earlier this week that they would crack down on fake news sites by cutting off their revenue sources, according to The Wall Street Journal. Facebook explicitly said it would ban sites that it has deemed responsible for fake news from using its advertising network to generate revenue. Google said it planned to prevent Google’s ads from being placed “on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose” of the website.
But Horner told the Washington Post he isn’t worried about his business getting shut down.
“I know ways of getting hooked up under different names and sites,” he said. “So probably if they cracked down, I would try different things. I have at least 10 sites right now. If they crack down on a couple, I’ll just use others.”