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Fake News From Fake Sites About Feelings Of Guilt Real Voters Going To Vote


Algorithmically, I’m what you’d consider a prototypical Glenn Youngkin voter: a white man around 40 with a near-perfect frequency and obvious signs that I’ve been a Republican all my electoral life. This is the kind of publicly available information anyone who creates databases for advertising campaigns can ingest.

Much less readily available, however, is the information that would distinguish a Trump-supporting Republican from a longtime Republican who is now criticizing the party and Trump.

So I wasn’t surprised to get this ad on Facebook yesterday:

The advertised Facebook ad was for an alleged Plain Jane logo publication, the “Old Dominion News”. It’s a page that had fewer than 20 likes by Sunday evening – that is, it was little read and opaque. It’s clearly a fake publication trying to get people like me to vote.

Despite the little influence of the “publication”, the ad has 840 comments and 209 shares.

It turns out that “Old Dominion News” is one example of what the Columbia Journalism Review calls “pink slime,” one among hundreds. The pages

goes back to the conservative businessman Brian Timpone. In 2012, Timpone’s Journatic, a retail outlet known for its inexpensive automated story generation (known as “Pink Slime Journalism”) attracted nationwide attention and outrage through fake bylines and quotations, as well as plagiarism. Journatic was renamed Locality Labs in 2013; Locality Labs is behind many of the publications we discovered that mimick the look and feel of traditional news organizations. These websites don’t contain much information about their political uses or funding, but some of them have been funded by political candidates and lobbying campaigns. Metric Media, Locality Labs (or LocalLabs), Franklin Archer, the Record Inc., and Local Government Information Services (LGIS) are the primary organizations involved in the operation of these publication networks, and Timpone is in one way or another with each of them you joined them. Michigan Daily has detailed the tangled relationships between these organizations.

As I clicked through the Facebook ad, I was led to an (obviously fake) article on a new website:

Affordable [sic] VoteRef.com is committed to “ensuring transparent, accurate and fair elections” on its website by providing public access to official government data on elections, including voter registration lists, with the aim of promoting higher voter turnout in all fifty states. “

“Our system of government is based on citizen participation. We believe that people are basically the owners of this data and have a legal right to see it in an understandable and transparent form, ”the website says.

The executive director of VRF is Gina Swoboda, a former executive officer of the Arizona Secretary of State.

There is a lot to unpack here.

First, the website referred to in the “News” article is similar to VoteRef.com, the mailers used by political parties and organizations in the past election years and this year as well. The idea of ​​these mailers, targeting algorithmically selected voters, is to push recipients to vote. Perhaps you would destroy the guilty feeling of seeing your own voting results so far; you may be afraid that your neighbors will see that you didn’t vote; Either way, the idea is that you stick to the voting booth.

Second, considering that this astronomical fake news site only exists to take advantage of Facebook’s algorithms, it’s hilarious that two of the top trending stories on the site are attacking. . . Facebook:

Third, take a look at the organization behind this VoteRef website: the “Voter Reference Foundation” and its managing director Gina Swoboda. This new organization has reportedly spread lies about the 2020 election. And Swoboda, who served as election director for the Trump campaign in Arizona, is apparently herself a supporter of conspiracy theories about the 2020 elections:

Swoboda is also an overt Sharpiegater who testifies to a conspiracy theory debunked by the testimony of officials and abandoned by the Trump campaign’s own attorney, who now claims this does not apply to her case.

(It’s in your complaint and in all affidavits.) Pic.twitter.com/ErGYSZuAWe

– Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) November 12, 2020

After all, there isn’t much to read about the Youngkin or McAuliffe campaign (or their allies) in Virginia based on the use of this type of Facebook advertisement on the eleventh hour and turf messages. This fake publication – and the hundreds of other such fakes out there and the advertisements promoting it – are a reminder of how much money is mysteriously floating around on the hidden, fake, data-driven side of our politics.

As McKay Coppins reported in the Atlantic last year:

According to a longtime strategist, candidates who want to spread a negative story about an opponent can pay to have their desired headlines posted on some of these Potemkin news sites. By working with an outside consultancy – rather than paying for the websites directly – candidates can disguise their involvement in the program when claiming expenses with the federal electoral commission. While the stories don’t fool savvy readers, the headlines are convincing enough to flash across the screen in a commercial or slip into donation emails.

Cambridge Analytica may be dead and gone, but its successors are still clinking.


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