The idea was simple enough: publish as many absurd, obviously fake stories imaginable, and see if anyone actually falls for it. The results of this experiment were both fascinating and disheartening.
“BREAKING: Satire Makes Fools Of Gullible Trump Supporters.”
That’s the headline James McDaniel published on his intentionally fake news website, UndergroundNewsReport.com, earlier this month.
Within just two weeks of his website going online, McDaniel had already amassed more than a million views, thousands of comments on his stories, and hundreds of thousands of “likes” and “shares” on Facebook.
“While writing them, I was aiming for stories that no one would believe, but rather would be satirical in an age where disinformation is so prevalent,” McDaniel wrote on his website. “Just for fun, I decided to post some of the stories in Trump fan groups on Facebook to see the reactions.”
One fake story, headlined “Wikileaks: Obama Ran Pedophile Ring Out Of Whitehouse” amassed more than 40,000 views. Published in February, the top comment reads: