Fake news is a real problem as we know. Now a new report has put some numbers to the costs of running a fake-news campaign, revealing that a key part of the problem may be that doing so is incredibly affordable.
Want an 800-word fake news article written by Chinese content marketer Xiezuobang? That’ll be $30. How about having Russian firm SMOService make a video appear in YouTube’s main page for two minutes? $621. What about getting the English-language firm Quick Follow Now to have 2,500 Twitter followers all retweet a link for you? A steal at $25. Read more in MIT Tech Review.
Another example, is trolling a journalist into the ground so that readers don’t believe his or her work—something that happened to Mexican reporter Alberto Escorcia—would be fairly simple. It would require a sustained drip-feed of negative articles over a four-week period, with each one retweeted 50,000 times, followed by a vocal smear campaign using poisoned Twitter accounts and negative comments on the journalist’s articles. Total cost: $55,000.
Bringing about a full-scale protest, such as the Minnesota sit-in over a racist slur that was found to be fictional, is a bigger-ticket item. The approach might need 1,000 real people to start an online discussion of contentious issues. That discourse could then be ratcheted up by tossing in bits of fake content that get artificially liked around 40,000 times each so they rise up the news feeds. Then, with a real event being organized and perhaps even advertised using more conventional means, things spill into the real world, with a genuine event taking place. The full cost, says Trend Micro, might be around $200,000. Read more in MIT Tech Review.