Society

Teen Claims To Have Made $60,000 Creating Fake News

| by Brendan Kelly

A teen from Macedonia claims to have profited more than $60,000 from creating fake news in the last six months.

Macedonian 17-year-old, identified only as Dimitri, says he is one of several hundred people in his town of Veles who made a profit from creating fake news during the 2016 presidential election, The Huffington Post reports.

"You see what people like and you just give it to them," Dimitri told NBC News, requesting to keep his identity hidden. "You see they like water, you give water, they like wine, you give wine. It's really simple."

He continued: "Nothing can beat Trump's supporters when it comes to social media engagement. So that's why we stick with Trump."

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The rise of fake news has become a major topic of discussion following a Washington D.C. shooting that was inspired by a conspiracy theory perpetuated by many fake news sites, The Huffington Post reports.

The conspiracy theory, known as "Pizzagate," says that many Washington insiders, including Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman John Pedestal, were connected to a child sex ring which was run out of a pizza restaurant in the capital city. The story was proven to be false numerous times, but the conspiracy still inspired a man to fire a rifle into the restaurant as a way to "self-investigate" the claims.

Dimitri says he himself did not write any fake news stories about "Pizzagate," but said he wrote many stories about Clinton during the election cycle.

"I have mostly written about her emails, what is contained in her emails, the Benghazi tragedy, maybe her illness that she had," he told NBC.

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Buzzfeed published an analysis revealing that fake news outperformed real news on social media in 2016. The report led many Americans to wonder what sort of impact the rise of fake news may have had on the results of the election.

Dimitri says he has created more than 50 domain names in the last six months to increase visibility of his stories on social media. He says several of his posts have been viewed more than 40 million times each.

"We stay up late and we don't sleep that much -- I haven't slept good for a couple of months now," Dimitri told NBC News. "I have to go to school and then at night I have to work."

Dimitri says he and the other writers he works with tested what stories do best initially, and now writing fake stories comes naturally.

The teen gave a simple explanation of why he believes fake news outperforms mainstream news online: "They're not allowed to lie."

Dimitri says he is not bothered by the idea that he and his colleagues may have influenced the U.S. election.

"I didn't force anyone to give me money," the teen said. "People sell cigarettes, they sell alcohol. That's not illegal, why is my business illegal? If you sell cigarettes, cigarettes kill people. I didn't kill anyone."

Sources: NBC NewsThe Huffington Post / Photo Credit: Alexander Smith/NBC News

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