Investigative team Sadbottrue has own technologies for data gathering and for meta-analysis of big data. We focused on findings and explanation of anomalies that influence on the tech companies. We are fighting against the social media and advertising fraud ecosystem.
Chapter 39. The fake media. Part one. Short version
The true story
To understand the problem of fake news, we need to apply a scientific approach and some business intelligence technologies.
For our study, we have two sources. The first one is the BuzzFeed’s list of 40 fake news sites. The second is the “list of potential false, misleading, clickbaity, and/or satirical news sources”, including 117 sites, was created by assistant professor Melissa Zimdars. As a result, we got a set of 153 sites for the first phase of our research.
To define the main subject of the research, we decided to select most popular sites, created just before or during the election campaign. So, they need to meet the following requirements:
1. It was created not earlier than 2014.
2. In 2016 it reached the mark of 100,000 page views per day.
3. The main traffic comes from the US.
11 websites comply with these requirements, 4 of them was created in 2016.
The first thing we found was 3 of them were banned by AdSense in November, but nobody highlighted that this has already happened.
We used for the study:
1. Three web analytics services: Alexa, Easy Counter, and SimilarWeb.
2. Related articles in the media about the research objects.
3. Activity Monitoring of sites during the second half of November.
We will try a little closer look at the creators of these sites, as well as to describe what happens to the media of false news after ad system banned them.
The objects of review are:
Created on April 29, 2016
Average daily visitors/pageviews 105K/154K (First decade of November)
Easy Counter donaldtrumpnews.co
This site was covered first time as the fake news site in Buzzfeed on November 4, 2016. , November, 15 it was on the air, but the next day the site is inactive.
What happens after the publication?
1. After AdSense ban, Donaldtrumpnews.co became unreachable.
2. The audience of the site did not react to it. Site editors did not respond to the incident.
3. Donaldtrumpnews.co FB page began to post the links on new site Conservativefighters.com. It was created 16 November, 2016, using the same WordPress Template.
The anomalies during the Convervativefighters.com’s launch.
1. Donaldtrumpnews.co has no redirect to new domain Convervativefighters.com
2. The facebook page was not renamed.
3. The site or facebook page Donaldtrumpnews.co has no explanation about the new domain.
4. Old links from other sites were not fixed, just abandoned.
Created on November 16, 2016
Average daily visitors/pageviews 26.8K/50.9K
(First week of November)
Easy Counter conservativefighters.com
SimilarWeb not tracked
To prove the inorganic growth site audience can sometimes be quite a fact that indicates a completely inhuman behavior of visitors. Let’s look, from what countries comes traffic to it.
6 % of it comes from Papua New Guinea, or more than 1,500 unique visitors. Of course, this anomaly could have happened in only one case. When buying traffic, the seller mixed the cheap traffic from Oceania with the US expensive targeted traffic.
We have met with similar facts and even wrote about it. June 9, 2016, article “The fraud patriot” has been published. However, the traffic is from Kenya was not the only anomaly of fake media Madpatriots.com.
Created on March 14, 2016
Average daily visitors 319K/434K
(First decade of November)
Easy Counter endingthefed.com
The site was covered by Inc.com, the article “Meet the Romanian Trump Fan Behind a Major Fake News Site” by Tess Townsend, November 21, 2016.
According to Dobrota`s Linkedin profile, he is a professional web programmer and SEO specialist. He has no experience in media or political writing, but he made quite successful imitations for AdSense cheating.
What happened after the publication?
1. Adsense was disabled (AdSense ID was silently blocked by Google).
2. The part of the code which shows the author of the article was removed.
3. It deleted the information about authors or administrators.
4. Site began to post unoriginal articles, mainly from Angrypatriotmovement.
5. Both site and facebook account have not any information about AdSense disappearing and changes in publishing policy.
6. Its traffic has fallen by more than half.
Created on June 01, 2016
Average daily visitors/pageviews 90K/129K
(First decade of November)
Easy Counter libertywritersnews.com
This site libertywritersnews.com was mentioned at least twice. The first was the story “How Facebook powers money machines for obscure political 'news' sites” on Theguardian by Dan Tynan in August 2016. The second was the story ‘For the ‘new yellow journalists,’ opportunity comes in clicks and bucks” on Washingtonpost by Terrence McCoy, November 20, 2016.
The day after the WP article was published, Adsense account of this site was suspended. After it, the site stopped its updating.
But on November 30 the site suddenly posted 7 new articles, as you can see on the archived copy of the page made in the morning on December 1, 2016. The first day after return site reached 282K
Adsense was reactivated the next day, 1 December, close to 10:00 PT. The site continues to operate in the same mode as prior to 21 November.
The bot facts
1. Journalist Investigations of major outlets are the most significant factor to detect fake news sites for Google.
2. After these sites were highlighted by major media and AdSense banned them, all of them have changed its type of content, stopped to post new articles or even shut down the domain and start the self-clone.
3. All three sites were created by professionals in SEO or advertising, but not political reporters with strong relations with experts and spokesmen.
4. All of them were not intended to create a loyal audience of media, the main task is to make a profit using advertising systems.
The sad question
Answer yourself what it's more like: fake news for political misinformation or imitation of digital media for cheating Adsense or other advertising systems?