Fake news, the destructive Internet element exploited by Donald Trump and his allies; from winning the presidency to running the country for more than three years. The advent of fake news though cannot be attributed to Trump’s political machinations alone. Fake news already existed long before Trump’s campaign team used it to advance his political career.
The Economist says that fake news came about in the 16th and 17th century during the earliest days of printing. Printers circulated pamphlets containing news about sightings of quaint or monstrous creatures. The publication of fake news was in fact a commercial strategy for gaining widespread readership.
The strategy was revived on the Internet by several enterprising website owners, which was made even more effective by the sharing features of social media sites.
BBC reported that it was Buzzfeed who took the initiative to find out from where most of the fake news websites came. Craig Silverman, Buzzfeed’s media editor said they were able to trace a large group of about 140 websites all registered in Veles, a small Macedonia town somewhere in Eastern Europe. All of which were operated by young people taking advantage of the opportunity to gain financially from Facebook’s advertising platform.
The U.S. Presidential Election Combined with Trump’s Campaign Strategy Gave Fake Stories Importance
At that time, many still chose to ignore articles that looked too good or too awful to be true. Many were wary that they were mere tools being used by cyber criminals.
That is why the 2016 U.S. presidential election presented the greatest opportunity for operators of fake news websites. Pro-Trump Facebook users were the easiest to capture, since Trump’s head campaign manager was actually exploiting the FB platform to feed news and stories; either to build Trump’s image or to destroy his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Moreover, the campaign team’s strategy included uploading personal data about their specific target audience. That way, whatever news they want to spread, whether real or fakem will directly appear as newsfeeds on the wall of the pro-Trump FB users. In turn, the news will have a chance to spread virally. Every click that takes them to the original source of the fake Trump news stories, is income earned from FB advertising.
During Trump’s years of acting as a U.S. president, fake news became a by-word, because Trump normally weaponized the term against any journalist who will write or say something negative about him and his presidency. Now that the 2020 presidential election draws nearer, expect all sorts of fake news to once again abound. .