In a delicious twist of irony a famous satirical fake news website manages to take down or seriously hamper dozens of "real" fake news sites using nothing but copyright law.
Here at Lead Stories we have a long history of debunking articles originating from "The Resistance: The Last Line of Defense", a website that constantly publishes fake news and hoaxes designed specifically to inflame conservative audiences gifted with a less than average level of intelligence. The author of the site (unmasked by Politifact as Christopher Blair) is quite open about the fact that he writes fake news specifically aimed at people he calls "Trumpsters" in order to make money from advertising:
I tell the stories to my control group of 125K imbeciles, professionally marketed to fit a specific demographic of human being: The Trumpster. The Trumpster will not only typically believe anything you tell them if it makes them angry, they will conceive things from headlines alone that boggle the mind.
They are the truly ill-informed and no amount of real information will ever change their minds. I've convinced them to embrace single payer because Trump said it made sense. I've seen them tear up their rights and agree that the government now own them. Toying with them is way too much fun.
In fact he was so good at creating viral fake news aimed at conservative audiences that "real" fake news websites started copy-pasting his articles verbatim while removing any indicators they were satirical in nature. "The Resistance: The Last Line of Defense" actually carried following disclaimer on its about page, along with several other subtle and not so subtle hints in the articles themselves:
DISCLAIMER: The Resistance may include information from sources that may or may not be reliable and facts that don't necessarily exist. All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney. Pictures that represent actual people should be considered altered and not in any way real.
We must admit we initially thought all the sites copying the content were part of the same network but an investigation by Buzzfeed revealed they were mostly owned by Albanian and Macedonian teenagers looking to make a quick buck off somebody else's work. This seems to have annoyed Blair a lot as evidenced by this snippet from the Politifact article mentioned earlier:
Fake news websites in places like Albania and Macedonia steal Blair's stories and repost them without credit. The sites are run by "a bunch of whiny teenagers," Blair said, noting that he has dealt with many sites by notifying service providers of the infringement and blocking some countries from accessing his site altogether.
Yes, a fake news author is concerned about plagiarism.
Recently he seems to have stepped up his game by going on a copyright infringement reporting spree as he writes in this article on Gopocalypse.com.
Blair's vitriol aimed at Buzzfeed might be explained by the fact that a recent Buzzfeed investigation by Craig Silverman caused advertising network RevContent to pull its ads from "The Resistance: The Last Line of Defense" (and from many other non-satirical fake news websites). Amusingly the Gopocalypse website is still running RevContent ads.
Key paragraphs from the Gopocalypse article:
Those "Russians" are actually a group of teenagers in Veles, Macedonia, formerly known as Yugoslavia. They own and operate a couple dozen pages with a few million fans and all they do is copy and paste whatever gets the most shares on a conservative page. My stuff gets mad shares, because it's sensationalist garbage and death hoaxes. These people, with no satire disclaimers, steal my stories and sell as them real. People get mad, call me a part of the problem, the news is still fake, yada yada yada.
They took it within minutes and spread it to a reach of millions. That not only hurt my own reach, it also turned me into the bad guy. So I did what I had to do. I started finding the bigger pages and reporting them to Facebook. What these copy and paste "news aggregators" don't understand is that I'm not some pass it along, reblogging shlep; all of my material is original, written by me and 100% my intellectual property.
That means I have the right to send Digital Millenium Copyright Act notices to take down my material to Facebook, their hosting companies and most recently, their advertisers. They all have the same policy: A DMCA taken notice is complied with unless the party files a counter-claim, under penalty of perjury, that the intellectual property is theirs.
Are you following? I know...TL;DR. Anyway, Facebook, GoDaddy, NameCheap and the rest of them are finally getting tired of these people and the trouble they cause. Today when I woke up, I was informed by one of my Macedonian "contacts" that 22 pages had gone down from Facebook. That right there is what you can call a successful campaign.
That's the "serious" version of the article. You'll also want to read the "fake news" version over at "The Resistance: The Last Line of Defense", trust us. Who can resist a title like "BREAKING: Donald Trump Takes Out MASSIVE European Fake News Empire With One Phone Call"? We couldn't.
Over the past year we've been actively tracking many of the copycat sites using our Trendolizer engine as a part of our overall monitoring of hundreds of fake news websites in order to be able to quickly debunk the most trending fake news articles (you can read more about that here on the website of The Poynter Institute).
And indeed : over the past few weeks we have noticed that several sites that regularily used to make the list of top trending fake news articles were no longer appearing in it. Many of them definitely used to be copy-pasting Blair's work. Here's a selection:
Completely offline: True Trumpers, True Americans, Usa Today News, Trumpers Online...
Lost their Facebook page: Daily USA Update (facebook), The USA News (facebook), Open Magazines (facebook), Red Info US (facebook), Conservative Info Corner (facebook)...
Lost their advertisers: Blue Vision News (seem Ad.content is gone), News Feed Hunter (dito)...
We have no doubt many of these sites will be back onine shortly under different names and with new Facebook pages but it will take them lots of time and money to rebuild their follower counts. An expensive lesson in copyright and one of the most interesting ways to combat fake news that we've seen so far. Kudos to Christopher Blair aka Busta Troll!