Two US writers linked to rise of fake news from Macedonia: report

Two US writers linked to rise of fake news from Macedonia: report
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Two American conservatives were involved in a fake news scheme run out of Macedonia before the 2016 presidential election, according to a new report.

BuzzFeed News published the findings of a joint investigation on Wednesday revealing that two conservative writers in the U.S. partnered with a lawyer in the Macedonian town of Veles to distribute falsehoods online for at least six months in a period overlapping with Election Day.

Paris Wade, who is running for the Nevada state assembly, and his former business partner Ben Goldman were reportedly in contact with Macedonian media attorney Trajche Arsov as Arsov ran several fake news websites focusing on U.S. politics out of Macedonia before the 2016 election. 

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BuzzFeed reported last year on a wide-scale business dominated by teenagers in Veles. The teenagers produced fake news in order to turn profits, though they were generally uninterested in politics, according to the report. BuzzFeed noted that the business capitalized on conservative-leaning conspiracy theories getting clicks on Facebook and Google.

Around the same time, The Washington Post profiled Wade and Goldman, who ran a right-leaning website called Liberty Writers News. The Post profile described Wade and Goldman as "yellow journalists" capitalizing on the market for inflammatory conservative news.

BuzzFeed's new investigation – conducted with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project as well as the Investigative Reporting Lab Macedonia – indicates that the two men were in touch with the fake news purveyors in Macedonia.

Wade wrote more than 40 articles for some of Arsov's fake news websites, including USA Politics Today, as did his brother, according to BuzzFeed's report.

Arsov told the outlet that many Americans wrote for his fake news websites, including a blogger who now writes for Gateway Pundit, a right-wing website that frequently publishes on conspiracy theories.

The news about Wade and Goldman's involvement comes as tech giants grapple with how to handle the rise of fake news during the 2016 election and beyond.

Though Arsov's websites and Liberty Writers News have been shut down, they became popular on Facebook, BuzzFeed noted.

Lawmakers have grilled Facebook repeatedly for its "fake news" policy, which does not remove falsehoods but demotes them.

Last month, Facebook enacted new policies aimed at reducing the reach of pages run by foreign-based publishers, BuzzFeed reported. 

BuzzFeed noted that Wade, Goldman and Arsov are not being charged for any criminal activities.