A photograph which first appeared in the Birmingham Mail was used to create a fake news story about US election fraud which was shared millions of times Facebook, it has been revealed.
The New York Times has tracked down a recent college graduate in Maryland, USA, who created a fake news website called Christian Times Newspaper in order to earn some quick money.
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The story, published on 30 September, claimed that “tens of thousands of fraudulent Clinton votes” had been found in an Ohio warehouse (and followed Donald Trump’s allegation that the US election was “rigged”).
It was illustrated with a picture of voting boxes taken from the Birmingham Mail, the NYT reports.
The story was promoted with half a dozen fake Facebook pages which were created for the purpose and, according to CrowdTangle, was shared 6m times online.
The NYT reports that the author of the entirely fake story, who says he was motivated by money not politics, made $5,000 in a few days from the story which took him around 20 minutes to publish.
Other fake stories on the site included: Hillary Clinton Blames Racism for Cincinnati Gorilla’s Death and NYPD Looking to Press Charges Against Bill Clinton for Underage Sex Ring – making him more than $20,000 in total.
The social media website, which insists it is not a news publisher but merely a technology platform, is rolling out new measures to tackle fake news ahead of the German federal elections on 24 September.
It is adding a fact-check button to help stop media hoaxes by allowing users to flag stories they think could be misleading. Facebook then plans to use an independent organisation to verify stories. If they are found to be bogus, they will be marked “disputed” and won’t be promoted by the website’s algorithm.