Whether good or bad, if there is one legacy that will go down in history for Donald Trump, it will be his war with the media. The oft embattled President has both faltered and survived on attacking his critics with charges of "fake news." But according to a report published by CNN (an outlet which is regularly labeled fake news by the Trump administration), most of the fake news that circulates the internet is not from mainstream sources. And in fact, supporters of the President would be surprised to learn, that a good deal of the headlines that do come from sources that literally produce fake stories are actually written for pro-Trump conservative readers.
Investigators have tracked down dozens of websites known to churn out such headlines as "Michelle Obama Was Caught Cheating With Eric Holder - OBAMA IS FURIOUS!!!" and "Bill Clinton loses it in interview - admits he's a murderer," to a Macedonian town called Veles. Veles has been on the map for fake news watchdogs since the 2016 election cycle, at one point during which, over 100 websites had been identified for circulating unfactual and outrageous stories, posed as news. The sites are often well built, with headers, tabs and side bars that would give the untrained eye the impression that they were getting their dose of current events from a credible source.
Most of the content of such sites happens to be political, mainly due to how polemic the political climate has become in the globe, particularly in the United States. According to an influential purveyor of such websites, Mirko Ceselkoski, the hustle concerns taking popular subjects in the news cycle, and creating the most sensational headlines they can to trend along with the hot issues of the moment. While the ethics of such a practice are highly questionable, those who get into the business don't do so with journalistic integrity in mind. "I don't care because the people are reading. At 22, I was earning more than someone in Macedonia will ever learn in his entire life," a fake news website owner who goes by Mikhail told CNN investigators. Mikhail claims to have made as much as $2,500 per day from advertising revenue generated by one of his sites.
Ceselkoski tells of once running a site that had a Facebook page with 1.5 million followers. He ran the site much like any other business, with 15 employees on the payroll, but wound up seeing the business crippled when social media sites began blocking sites deemed fake news. Ceselkoski isn't stressing it for the moment, as he's shifted to more of a developer role, with approximately 100 mentees currently operating fake news sites. "There is a large community of young people there ... and there is nothing else to do," he says about the willingness of Veles locals to get in on the work. "It spread like fire." While CNN notes that it could not be verified, Ceselkoski claims to have mentored four millionaires in the fake news niche.