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Fake News Won’t Fade Away… Because It’s So Cheap to Make

Fake news campaigns have become cost-effective political smear campaign methods.

Technology By

File this under a real news flash: Fake news is too cheap to eradicate completely.

Running a digital smear campaign against a social or political figure is surprisingly affordable option, according to a new report from cybersecurity firm Trend Micro.

For just $15, for example, Chinese content marketing firm Xiezuobanga will write a 500-800 fake news article. For $621, a Russian group can make a video appear on YouTube for two hours. Need 2,500 Twitter followers to share something? Quick Follow Now can do that for $25.

In order to launch an effective fake news assault, there first needs to be some content (an article, video, photo, etc.) that’s engineered to appeal to pre-existing biases. Then, a network of humans (or bots) saturates social networks to push out the content to susceptible audiences. Followed up with “likes” and comments by more human-controlled or automated social media accounts to give the fake news traction.

This tactic can be combined to smear a rival politician or discredit journalists covering an unsavory story so they don’t have an audience—which is just what happened Mexican reporter Alberto Escorci.

MIT Technology Review reports a stream of negative articles, supported by angry Twitter accounts and comments of his news articles were part of a month-long fake news campaign to discredit Escorci that cost $55,000.