I am referring, of course to Facebook.
It turns out that Zuckerberg’s monster is complicit in Ben Shapiro’s astroturfing to monetize false engagement.
You can be sure that if this were someone selling cheesecake, they would have been banned years ago.
From a more personal perspective, if I were to do this on my blog, I would be demonitized instantly.
In fact, if I were to make a post just SUGGESTING that you click through on the ads on my blog, I would subject to sanctions from Google™ Adsense™. (Please see my disclaimer below)
I’m not sure if Zuckerberg is a wing-nut, or if he simply finds that it’s more profitable to sell whack-doodle conspiracy theories to the wing-nuts, and I don’t care. The effect is the same:
The success of The Daily Wire, the website run by right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, on Facebook is mind-boggling. The site has a small staff and primarily aggregates content from Twitter and other news outlets. Typically, its articles are very short, usually less than 500 words, and contain no original reporting.
And yet, last month, The Daily Wire was the seventh-ranked publisher on Facebook, according to the analytics service NewsWhip. Articles published in The Daily Wire attracted 60,616,745 engagements in May. Engagement is a combination of shares, likes, and comments, and is a way of quantifying distribution on Facebook. The reach of The Daily Wire’s articles was equal to the New York Times (60,722,727) and more than the Washington Post (49,219,525).
But that actually understates how well The Daily Wire does on Facebook. While the New York Times published 15,587 articles in May, and the Washington Post published 8,048, The Daily Wire published just 1,141. On a per article basis, The Daily Wire receives more distribution than any other major publisher. And it’s not close.
What explains The Daily Wire’s phenomenal success on Facebook? Popular Information revealed part of the answer last October. But the full story is much darker.
Popular Information has discovered a network of large Facebook pages — each built by exploiting racial bias, religious bigotry, and violence — that systematically promote content from The Daily Wire. These pages, some of which have over 2 million followers, do not disclose a business relationship with The Daily Wire. But they all post content from The Daily Wire ten or more times each day. Moreover, these pages post the exact same content from The Daily Wire at the exact same time.
The undisclosed relationship not only helps explain The Daily Wire’s unlikely success on Facebook but also appears to violate Facebook’s rules.
The network of large Facebook pages promoting The Daily Wire are all run by Corey and Christy Pepple, who are best known as the creators of Mad World News. Facebook pages controlled by the Pepples include Mad World News (2,176,003 followers), The New Resistance (2,857,876 followers), Right Stuff (610,809 followers), America First (577,753 followers), and American Patriot (447,799 followers).
Why do these toxic Facebook pages keep sharing content from The Daily Wire? Do the Pepples just really like Ben Shapiro’s site? The Daily Wire did not respond to a request for comment. But the behavior of these pages strongly suggests that The Daily Wire and Mad World News, LLC, the company owned by Corey and Christy Pepple, have a business relationship.
The Daily Wire is the only website outside of those owned by the Pepples that is shared by these five pages. And each of the five Facebook pages shares at least ten Daily Wire links every day. Conspicuously, the Facebook pages share the exact same links from The Daily Wire at the exact same time.
The pattern repeats over and over again, ten times or more every day. It’s behavior that strongly suggests that Mad World News, LLC is being paid to promote content from The Daily Wire.
If that’s the case, The Daily Wire could be violating Facebook’s rules. Facebook allows pages to be paid to post content, but the sponsorship must be disclosed using Facebook’s branded content tool.
The activity also appears to violate Facebook’s prohibition on coordinated inauthentic behavior, which includes a ban on activity to “artificially boost the popularity of content.”
There is no reason that the network of Facebook pages run by Corey and Christy Pepple should have flown beneath Facebook’s radar. Years ago, the Pepples became notorious for exploiting Facebook with poisonous content.
The Daily Wire’s apparent business relationship with Mad World News isn’t the first time the site has been caught flouting Facebook’s rules. Last October, Popular Information revealed a clandestine network of 14 large Facebook pages that purported to be independent but exclusively promote content from The Daily Wire in a coordinated fashion.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a relationship with Shapiro, who Zuckerberg has hosted at his home. According to a source who has spoken with Shapiro, Zuckerberg and Shapiro remain in direct communication.
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