Not Just Fake, But Cheap and Easy Too

Want to spread a little disinformation? Feel like riling up your political opponents with some unsubstantiated innuendo? You’re in luck.  According to a new study, it’s laughably easy to get into the fake news game.

“A new report from the cyber security firm Trend Micro takes a closer look at the cost of running misinformation campaigns hosted by various ‘content marketers’ that offer services in Russian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and English,” explains Michael Nuñez writing in Mashable.

“These so-called content marketers offer a wide variety of services for running a fake news campaign including things like creating fake social media profiles (about $2,600), writing fake news stories ($30), and even making a video appear in YouTube’s main page for a couple of minutes ($620),” he continues.

This isn’t just about stealth marketing; this goes far beyond. As Nuñez explains, this content can have significant real world consequences, as fake news machines spread their propaganda for money.

“There are also more malicious services offered including sparking social unrest, discrediting journalists, and putting constant pressure on a political party or organization. If all these real world outcomes sound too crazy to be true, consider recent events like the Minnesota sit-in over a racial slur or the Comet Pizza shooting, which were both inspired by fake news stories,” he explains.

Have $50k to spend? You can pretty easily discredit a mainstream journalist and ruin their credibility. For just under half a million, you could create a political campaign that has serious influence in our legislative system.

And while Facebook and others claim they are committed to fighting the fake news scourge, their efforts to date remain lackluster. And the content farms that create this drivel can adapt incredibly fast, as Nuñez explains:

“These businesses are actually quite sophisticated, and it’s safe to assume that when the tech giants change their methodology for sorting through fake news, the content farms that execute these campaigns will adapt in lockstep.”

For the foreseeable future, citizens of the web have to accept that fake news isn’t going away – and it’s likely taking native advertising down with it. Representing the truth in an increasingly distrustful environment is a challenge. Fortunately for media brands, they have an ace in the hole, as print continues to inspire trust in this age of uncertainty.