Dear Bernie supporters: Stop sharing posts from dumpster fire websites.
UPDATE (6/21): I was totally banned from the group Bernie Believers [Bernie Sanders] last night because of this story. After around 200 likes, the story was deleted. Upon repost, the individual was removed from the group — so I reposted it and was also removed from the group. This is a pretty solid case for admins/mods being part of the spam. Not all of them obviously but it only takes one person running with an ulterior motive to ensure the whole thing goes to shit.
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As a quick preface, please understand that I acknowledge the full and complete irony in the fact that I am authoring this on Medium. That isn’t to suggest that Medium is, in any way, a dumpster fire: just that it was the most accessible method I had available to get a reasonably important message out to the largest audience possible.
Monetizing Echo Chambers
Let’s pretend that I’m an individual living in Russia and my job consists of simply trying to get the well-manicured fingers of the Western bourgeoisie to click on a link. Once they click on this link, the four ads that I have ready and waiting to go in my header load above the story, the story then loads and the body/footer ads hop on deck to load when they scroll down. On first interaction (scroll down; tap on mobile), I also have a notification pop up urging you to like my Facebook business page because I’d hate for you to be in a situation where you aren’t clicking my content and it’d be way easier if you just allowed me to be in your news feed instead of me going to the groups you’re in and trying to bait you that way.
The first thing I’m going to need is a specific market that I want to bait into clicking on a thing. What is the West fanatical about? Health and fitness and weight loss and occasionally manifest destiny. Since that last one is sort of a niche market, let’s go with Health. I pop over to the nearest domain registration service and grab a bunch of domain names that don’t really make that much sense but definitely have the word Health or Fitness in the domain name: HealthManyFactNews, FitnessRunNewsNow and HealthyDietJournalSource. These all do reasonably well but there is a distinct drop-off in generated views around the time that the election starts up.
It then hits me that I could do the same thing I’m doing now but make a lot more money in the process of doing it.
Utilizing logic that understands traffic more than the United States political process, I see two markets to monetize: Trump supporters and Bernie supporters. I can really monetize all three but, after doing some research by stalking out a few Bernie groups, I see that pretty much every single Pro-Bernie/Anti-Hillary/WTF-Trump post shared ends up with 20–200 likes and 40–200 shares to personal feeds. That’s around 90x more movement than I’m seeing with my most popular Health post: Kombucha Fleshlights — the future of loneliness.
The first candidate I focus on also needs to have the most diehard base.
Trump is already the presumptive candidate so there aren’t really a lot of ways I can leverage an underdog situation at this point. I can just post articles where someone gets Stumped and occasionally share pictures to my business page suggesting a link between the President of the United States and a primate. Watching the arguments in groups and comment sections, it becomes pretty obvious that Bernie is in an underdog situation with supporters who, not necessarily without reason, feel that they are being intentionally scorned. I promptly throw on my Winnie the Pooh t-shirt, sing The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers and embrace my new honeypot. Then I register RealtimePoliticalNews, ElectionPoliticsSourceNow and PoliticalElectionDumpsterfire. Dot com.
The first problem I’d theoretically run into is how I’m going to generate market-specific content that would entice you to click in the first place. I’m going to need a lot of content and it will need to be varied between Bernie-inclusive/rallying and Hillary-accusing/angry. I have two options here: I can either dig on my own for articles that would get those sweet-sweet clicks and ad revenue from the CandyReamerBubbleWitch Android application (which I will immediately copy and paste onto my site) or I can just grab the content from the website of someone who is doing the same thing. SourcePlanet.net is the one I see most often and, spoiler alert, almost the entirety of SourcePlanet’s content is lifted from Medium without attribution.
That looks like this:
Then some words posted today:
Here’s the post from a day and a half ago this was lifted from on Medium:
Now, with three websites lifting content from other websites that lift content from other websites, we have a proper daisy chain of obfusticated content. I can jam out to the Russian version of Foghat’s Slow Ride, медленная езда. All I have to do now is get you to click, get you angry or rallying, and get you to share. Then my post shows up on your wall with your authority behind it. Your friends do the same. Their friends do the same. I’m now pulling in around $80-180 a day on you and your friends sharing old content about Hillary being indicted. Or a recount in Nevada resulting in Bernie winning the state but THAT LYIN’ MAINSTREAM MEDIA would never let you know about it.
I’d get into how the media is held to a level of accountability way above what some blog created three months ago is held to but it seems best to ease ourselves into this discussion. Let’s just stick to why USUNCUT, BIENTS, REALTIMEPOLITICS, QUIZARCO, and other sites all operated by individuals in other countries (and all filled with other people’s work) are dumpster fires.
Speaking of dumpster fires, here’s something knocking around the Bernie groups right now:
A Facebook business page that uses said page to promote the t-shirts that they sell, Poligags, posted this earlier in the week. Since it seems sort of weird for a political campaign to just sort of leaflet bomb New Jersey like it was an Afghan refugee camp, even if it is Jersey, let’s see what Google says about this atrocity to electio-
Well, maybe someone hasn’t taken the time to transcribe that into text. Since it has a big Post-It on the bottom, Google should have no problem doing an image search for a matching pictur-
Wait, am I suggesting that a company would post something on the internet… like, The Internet, and somehow allow it to be a falsehood?
Yes. I am. Here’s a larger version of that letter that was “received” in California.
Guys, I sincerely love you. I love your passion. I love your fire. I love all of that. But when 400 people are circle-jerking clickbait links in between wondering how Hillary Clinton is behind the FEMA Earthquake drill that happens on several days with one of them being primary day?
You are allowing yourselves to be manipulated. Through the practice of taking anything that agrees with your opinion at face value, actively refusing to believe anything but what agrees with your narrative and following that up with blatant disregard for doing two minutes of searching to verify the information: you become the myopic Trump supporter that you so vocally loathe.
Unless more individuals are willing to take a little time to bring the narrative back up out of the Coast to Coast AM/Daily Mail/Weekly World News level of information sharing: you will quite literally be a portion of the reason that this movement stalls as you spread yourself thin over information and infractions that never existed in the first place.