Nieman Foundation at Harvard
This is how an Iranian network created a “disinformation supply chain” to spread fake news
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May 12, 2017, 8:30 a.m.
Audience & Social

“Anger is a useful metric” and other evil tips for making money off hyper-partisan content

Plus: A quick way to make money off other people’s content, an invitation to fact-check U.K. local news, and BuzzBeed vs. BuzzFeed.

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

“Anger is a useful metric.” NewsWhip, the social media monitoring company, published a report this week on the rise of hyper-political publishers online. From the paper: “There’s a high proportion of reactions to likes for these hyper-partisan pages. The most popular of these has been the Angry reaction. These publishers are highly adept at provoking their followers into selecting a strong emotion rather than just a like.”

Also, check out “the top articles around Fake News across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, since the election in November 2016 through February 2017.” And here’s more about that Google Doc you see on the list.

“The alt-proper.” On May 2, The Los Angeles Times published a story by reporter Jessica Roy: “Milo Yiannopoulos to launch Milo Inc., ‘dedicated to the destruction of political correctness.'” The next day, an article with the same headline appeared on a site called, with some strange differences, Roy writes:

The phrase ‘the alt-right’ became ‘the alt-proper.’ The magazine ‘Vanity Fair’ became ‘Vanity Truthful.’ The Free Speech Movement became the ‘Cost-free Speech Motion.’ Instead of prompting people to follow me on Twitter, it asked people to ‘abide by me on Twitter.’

The article was posted on the pro-Trump Reddit The_Donald, where the University of Toronto Ph.D student Ian Dennis Miller, who studies social media and memes, saw it and flagged it to Roy.

Miller’s best guess is that the site [] takes articles like mine from legitimate news sites, and then feeds them into something that translates them into another language and then back to English…Tweaking the language of the articles is most likely a ploy to evade Google’s algorithm, Miller said. That makes it seem like the articles originated on that site, instead of being copied from other sources, which can make those stories appear higher in Google’s rankings, meaning more eyeballs on the stories, meaning more ad money.

Local U.K. papers fight news ahead of the election. A bunch of local and regional papers in the U.K. are participating in the News Media Association’s Fighting Fake News campaign ahead of the British general election on June 8. “Unlike social media and the major digital platforms, our newspapers — The Cornishman, West Briton and Cornish Guardian — and our website, Cornwall Live, are accountable for every single word we publish,” writes Cornwell Live’s Jacqui Merrington in one representative editorial. Many of the participating papers are asking readers to email them to fact-check pieces of local news they’ve seen on social media that they think may be false. (Yup, fake news is a problem in local, too.)

Speaking of the U.K. election, Facebook is ramping up its efforts to fight fake news ahead of it — publishing print ads in major British newspapers (as it also did in Germany) and deleting “tens of thousands” of fake accounts.

Facebook undertook similar efforts prior to last week’s election in France. BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick documents how English-speaking 4chan users “tried — and failed — to hijack the French election.”

There simply isn’t the same culture in France of websites aggregating far-right Twitter memes for Facebook audiences, like Breitbart, InfoWars, and TheBlaze do in the US. In the case of the French election, the memes went to Twitter and died.

The most-shared fake news article of the French election, by the way, appears to have been an article from a French far-right site called…BuzzBeed.

The left is not immune. Just a reminder, and another reminder.

Illustration from L.M. Glackens’ The Yellow Press (1910) via The Public Domain Review.

POSTED     May 12, 2017, 8:30 a.m.
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