Colbert Blasts Facebook for Helping Trump Win by Allowing Fake News to Flourish
One week later, many distraught Americans are still puzzled by how the U.S. ended up with Donald Trump as president-elect. As it turns out, it's not all our fault.
“A lot of people think that Donald Trump won because of Facebook—partly because on Facebook, it’s OK to poke without consent,” "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert began.
“But mostly because Facebook is full of fake news stories that get shared widely without being fact-checked," he added. "Like ‘FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide,’ or ‘Bill Clinton’s Sex Tape Leaked.'"
But it's no laughing matter. An astounding 44 percent of adults say they get their news from Facebook, but just who is fulfilling this need?
"It turns out that 100 different sites came from teenagers in one small Macedonian town who were looking to make money online and found that 'the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters,' which brings me to my new segment, 'Hey, Macedonian Teens!'" Colbert announced.
"Hey, Macedonian teens!'" Colbert continued. "Why can't you just do normal teenager stuff like put M-80s in mailboxes or get to third base behind the Hardee's, or steal a mannequin and set it on fire in the woods?"
"Over the past year, the Macedonian town of Veles (population 45,000) has experienced a digital gold rush as locals launched at least 140 U.S. politics websites," Buzzfeed reported on Nov. 3. "These sites have American-sounding domain names such as WorldPoliticus.com, TrumpVision365.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com. They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the U.S. The young Macedonians who run these sites say they don’t care about Donald Trump."
The Macedonian teens' motivation for this activity is purely economic. According to Buzzfeed:
"As Facebook regularly reveals in earnings reports, a U.S. Facebook user is worth about four times a user outside the U.S. The fraction-of-a-penny-per-click of U.S. display advertising—a declining market for American publishers—goes a long way in Veles. Several teens and young men who run these sites told BuzzFeed News that they learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook..."
Ironically, post-election, “there is some good news,” Colbert explained. “As of today, Facebook will restrict these fake news sites. Now they’re going to restrict them. Also, while we’re at it, let me just close these barn doors so those stupid cows can’t get back in.”