I created and run the half-million member The Deplorables group, which is the largest independent political group on Facebook. One of the biggest problems we have is postings from “fake news” and closely-related “click-bait” websites, often stealing content from legitimate sites such as Daily Caller, Breitbart, and the Washington Examiner and then bombarding the reader with all sorts of garbage ads. This election proved it can be lucrative, even for high schoolers. As the BBC thoroughly documented in December, the epicenter of this crapstorm is Veles, Macedonia.
Imagine our surprise when we were presented on the admin page with this graphic:
I circled near the bottom this gem:
We set this location based on your group’s description. It helps people find your group…
That’s right, folks: We have about a half-million members, to the point the number of click-bait & fake news posts triggered their vaunted algorithm to believe this US-centric group is in a small Macedonian city! Yet, Facebook only gives us crude admin tools which causes us unending nightmares with monster groups; and one critical tool — blocking users — does not even work! What we desperately need are the following admin tools, perhaps only released to admins of groups exceeding 50,000 members:
- Ability to restrict membership by country, or at least geographic area, even if it’s simply to adding new members;
- Ability to ban postings by website domain;
- Ability to mass-delete posts by website domain;
- Ability to block non-members: One common trick among these clowns is to add many fake accounts, then quickly leave the group so we cannot block these “master accounts;”
- Ability to actually block people: Our block list is at about 9,050, but even though we block people we remove, separately on the member list window and distinct from the reported posts window, the users are simply removed, and can be added back in. Clicking on the Remove post and block user function on either the Reported Posts page or on the article post itself does not work, as the block list is full.
From the BBC: The city getting rich from fake news
Many of the fake news websites that sprang up during the US election campaign have been traced to the small city Veles, in Macedonia, where teenagers are pumping out sensationalist stories to earn cash from advertising.
“The Americans loved our stories and we make money from them,” [Goran] boasts, making sure I see the designer watch he’s fiddling with. “Who cares if they are true or false?”
Goran – not his real name by the way, he’s not confident enough to reveal that – is one of scores, or probably hundreds of Macedonian teenagers who are behind a cottage industry in the small city of Veles which churned out fake pro-Trump news during the US election campaign.
Goran began putting up sensationalist stories, usually plagiarised from right-wing American sites, last summer.
After copying and pasting various articles, he packaged them under a catchy new headline, paid Facebook to share it with a target US audience hungry for Trump news and then when those Americans clicked on his stories and began to like and share them, he began earning revenue from advertising on the site.
Goran says he worked on the fakery for only a month and earned about 1,800 euros (£1,500) – but his mates, he claims, have been earning thousands of euros a day. When I ask him if he worries that his false news might have unfairly influenced voters in America, he scoffs.
“Teenagers in our city don’t care how Americans vote,” he laughs. “They are only satisfied that they make money and can buy expensive clothes and drinks!”
The digital gold rush has certainly provided a welcome boom for Veles where the average salary is just 350 euros a month; as we drive into the city, I notice some very new and very smart cars while the down-at-heel bars are full of excited young men drinking fancy cocktails. When it was part of the former Yugoslavia, this city was called Titov Veles after the Yugoslavian President Josip Tito – today I’m told it’s been jokingly rechristened Trump Veles.
The peddling of false news on lookalike American news sites is not illegal but there’s something a little underhand and dirty about the whole game of misleading readers. (more)