We’ve all seen the huge number of pro-Trump pages on social media, and the websites that many of them connect to. They far outnumber the pages and sites run by supporters of Hillary Clinton, and at first, they may give you a moment’s pause. “Maybe Trump really does have the huge number of supporters he claims,” you think. As a major party presidential candidate he does have a lot of supporters, although not as many as he likes to claim. The only problem is, the supporters that run many of the pro-Trump websites can’t vote for him, because 1) they’re teenagers, and 2) they live in Macedonia.
Buzzfeed News reports that local residents in the Macedonian town of Veles, which has a population of only 45,000, are responsible for at least 140 politically oriented websites — most of them aimed at Trump supporters in the U.S. If you’ve run across sites with names like “WorldPoliticus.com,” “DonaldTrumpNews.co,” or “USConservativeToday.com” you have found the Macedonian connection to Trump.
“But why are they doing this?” you might wonder. The answer is simple: $$$$. The teens and young adults who run these sites told Buzzfeed that they don’t care about the American election or about Donald Trump. They are simply trying to make money.
The way they make money may be legal, but it is also quite dishonest. The site owners say they learned the quickest way to make a profit is by pitching sensational content to Trump supporters — content which is often mostly or completely false. A university student from Veles, who agreed to speak to Buzzfeed anonymously, said,
Yes, the info in the blogs is bad, false, and misleading but the rationale is that ‘if it gets the people to click on it and engage, then use it.’
A 17-year-old site manager told Buzzfeed,
I started the site for a easy way to make money. In Macedonia the economy is very weak and teenagers are not allowed to work, so we need to find creative ways to make some money. I’m a musician but I can’t afford music gear. Here in Macedonia the revenue from a small site is enough to afford many things.
Buzzfeed says that their analysis shows that most of the best performing stories from the sites are false. Consider that for a minute. Trump’s supporters want to “make America great again,” and believe their candidate “tells it like it is.” But they are reading and sharing false information being spread by foreigners. There are the makings of a movie comedy in there somewhere. Let’s hope that on the day after the election it won’t need to be written as a tragedy instead.
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