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Natalie Martinez

Author ››› Natalie Martinez
  • Right-wing media figures are blaming everything but guns for the Parkland shooting

    ››› ››› SANAM MALIK & NATALIE MARTINEZ

    On February 14, 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Right-wing media figures rushed to blame the shooting on “leftist” public schools, the FBI and its Russia probe, and on debunked connections between the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, and antifa and Islamic terrorist groups.

  • “The Storm,” the deep state, and antifa: Pro-Trump media are full of conspiracy theories about today’s train accident

    ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ & NICK FERNANDEZ

    After a charter train that was carrying Republican members of Congress collided with a stalled dump truck that was stuck on the train tracks in western Virginia, pro-Trump media outlets immediately pushed various conspiracy theories about the accident, including suggesting that “the deep state” was “trying to send a message” to Republican members of Congress. Fake news websites also pushed a conspiracy theory linking the potential release of the classified memo written by the Republican members of the House intelligence committee with the timing of the train crash that they claim was enacted by the “deep state.”

  • How a major fake news network is preparing to evade Facebook's changes

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A network of fake news websites is promoting an effort to bypass new changes Facebook has recently implemented. The move comes as two major Facebook pages tied to the network and associated with fake news website Freedom Daily were taken down this weekend.

    Facebook has announced changes over the past couple of weeks that will push content from peers and supposed “high quality” news outlets higher in users’ news feeds. In response, this network of fake news websites including Freedom Daily, Barracuda Brigade, Conservative Today, and Joe for America have been promoting a campaign to circumvent Facebook’s newest efforts to tackle fake news, calling Facebook’s reasons to do so “insidious” and “anti-freedom.” The campaign claims that social media companies are trying to “eliminate [their] voice in the political arena” and that Facebook has “tried various tactics to kill these conservative websites.” The campaign encourages readers to adjust their settings on their Facebook news feed so that the pages of these conservative websites appear first on their feed. This setting would mean these users will see posts from these fake news sites on their feed regardless of how Facebook’s algorithm would otherwise rank their content.

    This campaign comes as the main Facebook page for Freedom Daily, a major fake news website, was recently taken down. The page had around 2.6 million followers and was verified until recently, when Facebook removed its verification check marks from the pages of multiple fake news websites. Freedom Daily’s content has often pushed racist conspiracy theories and promoted violence against Muslims. On its website, Freedom Daily’s Facebook icon now links to a new page, Freedom Daily News, which uses the same URL as the previous Facebook page and which began posting on Monday. The page seems to have been created around January 20, 2018.

    Freedom Daily’s main Facebook page was part of a network of pro-Trump, conservative Facebook pages that exclusively linked to a set of websites affiliated with Freedom Daily, such as US Herald, Constitution.com and Silence is Consent. The websites involved in this Facebook effort also shared a Google Adsense ID until recently, and have been promoting each other’s websites on their respective Facebook pages.

    In addition to Freedom Daily’s page, another one of those pages called President Donald Trump is Right, which had around two million followers, is also down. All other pages associated with Freedom Daily are still active, but they seem to be operating differently since Facebook has deleted other pages. Major pages with millions of followers, like Patriots United, Daily Vine and Silence is Consent, have largely stopped posting links from Freedom Daily’s site, instead sharing posts from smaller Facebook pages and the pages of individuals linking to Freedom Daily. Some other Facebook pages which frequently posted links to Freedom Daily -- Defense of Freedom, Conservative Tradition, Liberty Upheld, and Joe the Plumber’s Facebook page -- have stopped sharing links to Freedom Daily on their pages all together.

  • The misinformation Trump tweeted in his first year as president

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Media Matters surveyed President Donald Trump’s 2,276 tweets from the first year of his presidency from January 20, 2017, until January 16, 2018, and found that at least 23 percent (522 tweets) contained fact-checked false claims or misinformation and at least 27 percent (628 tweets) attacked his perceived enemies. The media was frequently a focal point of Trump’s Twitter activity; he attacked mainstream media outlets, scrutinized specific stories that criticized him, and praised Fox News’ coverage. Democrats were a consistent target as Trump often referred back to the 2016 election, attacked congressional investigations of his campaign’s connections to Russia, and complained that Democrats in Congress were “obstructing” his agenda.

    Here is a breakdown of these patterns of misinformation he pushed, who he attacked most in his first year as president of the United States, and who Trump mentioned or retweeted the most.

    Top 5 false narratives tweeted by Trump

    Trump frequently pushed misinformation throughout the year, largely around five main narratives:

    1. In 248 tweets, Trump attacked the credibility of mainstream media outlets. Trump’s campaign against mainstream media took various forms: He called outlets “dishonest,” smeared the press as the “fake news media” when they reported on stories he didn’t like, questioned polls that had unfavorable results, and claimed specific reports or stories were false without evidence -- almost all of which have held up under scrutiny.  

    2. In 92 tweets, Trump claimed the 2016 election was rigged against him. Trump repeatedly claimed that outside forces had worked in favor of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the election. In the first year of his presidency, Trump tweeted that the news media and social media had a pro-Clinton bias, that the FBI and DOJ “exonerated” Clinton during the investigation of her emails as a political favor, that Clinton colluded with Russia, that then-President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump’s campaign, that Obama did not investigate Russian election interference because he did not want to negatively impact Clinton's chances of winning, and that millions of fraudulent votes were cast. There is no evidence to support any of these claims.

    3. In 70 tweets, Trump pushed misinformation about immigrants and immigration. Trump repeatedly pushed misinformation about immigration to associate immigrants with drugs, human trafficking, and violent crime in the U.S. His tweets have made false, xenophobic claims regarding policy and legal actions throughout the year, such as claiming that sanctuary city policies drive up crime rates and that court actions blocking his travel ban would lead to more violence in the U.S. His tweets about “chain migration” conjured inaccurate images of an unbridled flow of unvetted immigrants into the country. He also falsely blamed Obama-era immigration policies for the growth of gangs. Trump has also smeared existing immigration programs like the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, understating its vetting and application process in order to paint the program as a threat to national security.

    4. In 64 tweets, Trump claimed that news stories about Russian interference in U.S. elections and that investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians are part of a “hoax” and “witch hunt” against him. In most of these tweets, Trump accused Democrats of peddling what he claimed was a false narrative through the mainstream media and in Congress as an excuse for losing the 2016 election. He also frequently claimed that news reports about the investigation and about election interference were part of an effort by Democrats and the mainstream media to undermine his presidential achievements. Attacks like these against news coverage of Russian election interference were part of Politifact’s 2017 Lie of the Year.

    5. In 34 tweets, Trump claimed that Obamacare was dead and that instability in the market was the Democrats’ fault. Trump’s misinformation on the state of Obamacare took different forms throughout the year, beginning with misleading claims about premiums, false statements that Obamacare was in a “death spiral,” and finally blaming Democrats for the instability of the insurance market after Trump ended cost sharing reduction payments.

    Trump used his tweets to attack and disparage others 628 times.

    Trump attacked mainstream media as a whole 141 times. Trump often referred to mainstream media collectively as “fake news,” “fake news media,” and “dishonest media.” The five outlets he targeted most frequently were The New York Times (40 tweets), CNN (33 tweets), NBC (24 tweets), The Washington Post (16 tweets), and ABC (14 tweets). Some of Trump’s attacks on these media outlets and the “fake news media” were also in conjunction with praise of Fox News Channel and specific Fox programs like Fox & Friends.

    Trump attacked these five individuals by name most frequently: Hillary Clinton (50 tweets), Barack Obama (27 tweets), James Comey (18 tweets), Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (13 tweets), and Republican Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (12 tweets). These attacks -- except for those about Corker --  were generally linked to the 2016 election and attempts to discredit Mueller’s investigation.

    Top Twitter accounts mentioned and retweeted by Trump

    In his first year of presidency, Trump most frequently retweeted and mentioned the Twitter handle of Fox News’ morning show, Fox & Friends (@foxandfriends). His second most retweeted handle was his own (21 retweets). Trump retweeted Fox Business, Fox News, the two networks’ programs, and various Fox personalities more times (88 retweets) than members of his administration and government departments combined (71 retweets), excluding times he retweeted his own handle (21 retweets). Trump also retweeted unverified handles that don't belong to a public figure or entity (33 retweets) almost three times as often as he retweeted elected Republican officials (12 retweets). 


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

  • Hannity has a history of deceptively editing videos

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On December 11, Fox News host Sean Hannity aired an edited quote from CNN analyst Paul Callan regarding Wikileaks and Donald Trump Jr. in order to label CNN as “fake news.” This is not the first time Hannity has deceptively edited clips to attack his perceived opponents.

    During his December 11 show, Hannity aired a portion of a CNN segment about the network’s report that claimed that during the presidential campaign, Trump Jr. received an email providing website and login information for Hillary Clinton’s hacked campaign emails from Wikileaks. CNN later corrected some parts of its initial report. As reported by Mediaite, Hannity aired a part of the CNN segment on the report that implied Callan said Trump Jr. violated federal and New York state laws. But Callan’s full comment shows that he was speaking hypothetically, and actually said there was not enough evidence for a criminal case against Donald Trump Jr.

    Hannity has a history of airing deceptively edited video clips to go after his perceived enemies. In 2011, CNN host Anderson Cooper called him out for clipping Cooper’s words out of context to make his straightforward report on former diplomat Joseph Wilson seem like an attack against the administration of former President George W. Bush. In that same episode, Hannity also deceptively edited clips from journalist Katie Couric and former CBS correspondent Mike Wallace.

    Hannity also aired deceptive edits to attack then-President Barack Obama. In 2010, now-Fox host Howard Kurtz criticized Hannity for cropping an Obama speech, making it seem like Obama said that he was raising taxes  when he was actually saying that the Bush administration had planned for the tax increase to occur after Bush left office.  A year before that, Hannity aired clips from a Fox News interview with Obama, editing out specific lines in order to make it seem as if Obama had not acknowledged the role U.S. presidents played in lifting the Iron Curtain. Hannity’s deceptive edits and misrepresentations of Obama’s comments were part of his extensive anti-Obama, conservative disinformation campaign during Obama’s presidency.

    In addition to clipping videos to fit his narrative agenda, Hannity has also promoted deceptively edited videos from discredited and fringe sources like James O’Keefe’s ACORN videos, Center for Medical Progress’ false attacks against Planned Parenthood, and filmmaker Ami Horowitz’s anti-Islam YouTube stunt. Hannity’s history of pushing disinformation and conspiracy theories has led to an exodus of advertisers from his Fox News program, adding to a significant drop in the network’s ad revenue. Media Matters has continued to urge Hannity’s advertisers to reconsider funding Hannity’s brand of disinformation and extremism, warning that his volatility makes him a business risk.

  • Google is still profiting from a racist fake news site that promotes violence 

    Freedom Daily hosts Google ads right next to racist content that advocates for anti-Muslim violence

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN & NATALIE MARTINEZ

    Google advertising network AdSense is helping monetize racist and dangerous anti-Muslim articles from the fake news website Freedom Daily, despite clear violations of AdSense’s policies prohibiting content that "[t]hreatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others" or “incites hatred against” an individual or group on the basis of race or religion.

    Racist content is part of Freedom Daily’s DNA. Between September 15 and October 15, the site published over 100 articles about the recent NFL player protests in support of civil rights, many of which denigrated black players because they are black and falsely claimed that the protests led to anti-white attacks. And Freedom Daily’s posts about NFL players are just part of its targeted racist content, which includes articles promoting violence and hatred against Muslims.

    In recent testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel claimed that the company has “taken steps” to demonetize misrepresentative websites and has added to its policies “around or against hate speech.” According to Google AdSense’s policies, “We don’t permit monetization of dangerous or derogatory content”:

    Dangerous or derogatory content

    We believe strongly in freedom of expression, but we don't permit monetization of dangerous or derogatory content. For this reason, Google ads may not be placed on pages containing content that:

    • Threatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others;
    • Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals;
    • Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.

    But Google AdSense is still profiting off of multiple fake news sites, including Freedom Daily and its related site mPolitical (mPolitical features the same posts and bylines as Freedom Daily, and the two sites share a Google ad code), by providing advertising to them in a clear contradiction of its policies (which also prohibit “misrepresentative content”). Here are 10 posts from Freedom Daily swarmed by ads from AdSense that Google might want to take a look at:

    Note: The blue arrow in the corner of an ad indicates that it was placed by AdSense.

    “Desperate Tennessee residents are frantically crying out for help, as the small town they once loved and cherished is being completely overrun by hordes of nasty Muslim migrants.”


     

    A 2017 Freedom Daily story published at least twice claimed "nasty Muslim migrants" from Somalia were taking over a Tennessee town and targeting Christians. Snopes looked at the July 25 version and rated it false, stating, “Based on the evidence we were able to amass, Shelbyville, Tennessee doesn’t have a Somali refugee problem; Freedom Daily, on the other hand, does” (emphasis original):

    As many Americans were left in shock and horror following the Minnesota woman being violently shot down by a Somali Muslim cop, now Somali migrants have set their sights on another American city to invade. Desperate Tennessee residents are frantically crying out for help, as the small town they once loved and cherished is being completely overrun by hordes of nasty Muslim migrants, who have now started targeting local Christians with violent Islamic crimes.

    [...]

    Somali Muslims are proving to be the most violent migrants due to the vicious jihadist-ruled country they’re plucked from before making their way to the United States. Somali Muslims are not only overtaking Shelbyville and forcing Sharia onto the populace, but the city of Minneapolis as well. In addition to the disturbing headlines of the Somali cop gunning down a white woman last week, Somali migrants completely took over a small Minnesota white neighborhood several months back and started threatening to rape and murder females who were standing in their yards. [Freedom Daily, 7/25/17,  11/1/17; Snopes, 7/31/17]

    Michelle Obama “Goes Full-Ghetto” by attending a tour of the Siena Cathedral in a “slutty” shirt.

    An October piece said former first lady Michelle Obama entered an Italian church wearing “a slutty off-the-shoulder top,” claiming she was going “full-ghetto”:

    For the past 8 years, Michelle Obama strutted around like a queen, doing very little work as the First Lady other than running her big fat anti-American mouth. While we’re thankful this piece of work has finally left our White House after making a mockery of our country, what Michelle was caught doing inside a ancient church on Tuesday proves once again just how classless this woman is, who obviously holds herself above all the rules, even in the places of worship that most people revere as the sacred and holy place of God.

    [...]

    Showing up for a tour of Siena Cathedral in Italy looking like she had been up all night partying at a strip club, many people were quite astonished at the amount of skin Michelle was showing, as flaunted a slutty off-the-shoulder top that was a strict violation of the Siena Cathedral’s rules. [Freedom Daily, 10/18/17]

    Headline calls Palestinian people “Cockroaches.”

    A June 2016 piece called Palestinians “cockroaches,” saying they were celebrating a terror attack. [Freedom Daily, 6/8/16]

    "OF COURSE….Muslim Machete Attacker Was Here On Green Card From Africa"

    [Freedom Daily, 2/23/16]

    “ISLAM Needs to Be ERADICATED From the Earth.”

    Freedom Daily published a post about an ISIS propaganda video headlined “What This Muslim Father Did to His Son Proves ISLAM Needs to Be ERADICATED From the Earth.” [Freedom Daily, 2/24/16]

    Michael Brown’s family “Hit The Ghetto Lottery.”

    A July piece described a settlement given to the family of  Michael Brown --  a black teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer in 2014 while unarmed -- as a win of “the ghetto lottery.” The post went on to attack Brown’s family for having the “audacity” to argue that “the death of the two-bit thug” would deprive the family of potential wages. From the July 2 article:

    Take note America, In today’s America if you are a minority and raise a two-bit thug who gets himself killed for intimidating people and attacking a police officer the government will reward you with so much money that you will be able to fly around to exotic locations on your very own private jet. This is what Obama must have meant by the slogan “Hope and Change.”

    [...]

    Although their son didn’t even live with them, they actually had the audacity to argue that the death of the two-bit thug that they raised deprived them of financial support through his future potential wages. Umm, you won’t make 1.5 million dollars working at McDonald’s, if he was even qualified to work there.

    [...]

    This is Obama’s America. This is what we, as a nation, got for electing a race baiting charlatan with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. We are in serious trouble when you raise a kid to be a two-bit thug and the government, out of fear of looting and riots, takes it upon its self to reward you with a 1.5 million dollar payday because society had to fix the problem you raised. [Freedom Daily, 7/2/17; The Associated Press, 6/23/17]

    Man “driving a van [that] plowed through a group of Muslims” gave them a “taste of their own medicine.”  

    A June piece said that “political correctness and liberal politicians are providing to be Islam’s final advocate,” while “one resident finally snapped” and attacked Muslims outside a mosque:

    Authorities have done little to prevent terror attacks from plaguing Europe. Muslim refugees continue to flood places like the U.K. and Germany, while citizens continue to be brutally victimized with terror attacks, as political correctness and liberal politicians are proving to be Islam’s biggest advocate. As the U.K. continues to be targeted in recent months, one resident finally snapped and decided to give Muslims a brutal taste of their own medicine after what he did to a group of Muslims who had gathered for prayers outside their mosque a little after midnight last night. [Freedom Daily, 6/19/17]

    “Americans aren’t the ones who should run and hide and live like victims, it’s Muslims who need to be afraid. They don’t run this show anymore.”

    An October piece cheered a Louisiana sheriff-turned-lawmaker for “sending a message that … Muslims who need to be afraid”:

    Finally, someone has come out and given an assertive directive Americans have been desperate to hear for eight years. With a new sheriff in town, this former sheriff is empowered to give blunt advice like this rather than apologies. While it may seem like an impossibility to cleans the country of Islam, it’s a lot more feasible than loving terrorist out of committing acts of terror. More importantly, it’s sending a message that Americans aren’t the ones who should run and hide and live like victims, it’s Muslims who need to be afraid. They don’t run this show anymore. [Freedom Daily, 10/15/17]

    Sesame Street is “threatening indoctrination” by showing children “a heaping spoonful of Islamic propaganda.”

    An April 2016 piece criticized the TV show Sesame Street for “having a Muslim woman teach young girls about female empowerment”:

    Instead of sticking with basic education like numbers, the alphabet, and the occasional sing-along about treating others with kindness, the adored children’s program is kicking off their near 50-year run with perhaps the most threatening indoctrination yet. One-upping controversial episodes on topics including HIV, death, and Katy Perry’s barely-there wardrobe, the puppet-laden television show just gave our children a heaping spoonful of Islamic propaganda.

    [....]

    Having a Muslim woman teach young girls about female empowerment is like having a slave teach a free people about emancipation. How can one who is still chained speak of freedom? There is no personal experience to backup their claims. Even more so, they are the definition of a bound servant who believes they are free. [Freedom Daily, 4/10/16]

  • Meet AppSame: The mysterious right-wing social media company with an influential Twitter account

    What’s behind this spammy-looking, fake news-pushing, enthusiastic Trump-supporting “political marketing firm” with connections to the Philippines? And how much of what they claim to do is just bullshit?

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Despite what its wildly misleading name might suggest, AppSame is not an application. Based on the biographical details its social media accounts provide, AppSame is “a conservative political marketing firm helping America back to its greatness.” While publicly available information does not clarify what exactly, if anything, this firm does to help MAGA, its impressive Twitter presence (1.1 million followers as of this writing) invites some questions -- about its tactics, its actual impact, its role in the spread of fake news purveyor-generated misinformation into influential right-wing Twitter networks, and whether its influence could become a case study in the way Twitter enables unknown entities to have a disproportionate impact in politics.

    Both its massive following and its clout among right-wing Twitter hubs like #TCOT (an acronym that stands for “top conservatives on Twitter”) earned AppSame the top spot in Brandwatch’s 10 most influential Republicans on Twitter rankings in 2016. AppSame’s Twitter behavior is practically indistinguishable from that of hard-core supporters of President Donald Trump: The account frequently retweets the president and his family (once earning a magnanimous mention from Trump) as well as memes featuring right-wing narratives, churning out more than a hundred tweets or retweets per day. But despite its impressive following, AppSame’s original tweets barely register any viral attention, which might be evidence of a heavy fake account presence among its followers. A Twitter audit report confirmed as much in 2015, finding that 45 percent of @AppSame’s followers are suspected fake accounts. 

    @AppSame’s social media habits also include disseminating fake news and conspiracy theories into right-wing Twitter networks. On Twitter, @AppSame has shared links to fake news purveyors like TruthFeed and True Pundit, and its tweets have on occasion been featured in items written by fake news purveyors. In multiple tweets, AppSame either suggested or explicitly claimed that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.

    On its Medium account, AppSame has dabbled in original content creation, with a portfolio that expands on popular right-wing false narratives, including by claiming that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was involved in a sex scandal, accusing former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of having “built ISIS,” and claiming that Clinton “supports rape.” AppSame’s false claim that Gold Star father Khzir Khan’s speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention was written by Clinton staffers was eventually picked up by a 9/11 truther whose platform on YouTube reaches more than 110,000 subscribers. In other posts, AppSame has made pro-Russia arguments, engaged in anti-Islamic rhetoric (like calling Islam a “very screwed up” religion), and falsely equated white supremacy to the Black Lives Matter movement.

    On the now-defunct video-looping social media platform Vine, AppSame tried its hand at puppet theater in 2016 with bizarre political videos featuring a wide array of characters including a devil-horned Hillary Clinton, a Barack Obama in Middle Eastern garb shilling for ISIS, a disheveled Bill Clinton, and an orange-haired Vladimir Putin influencing Clinton. Its Instagram account hasn’t been active since 2014.

    Anyone interested in hiring AppSame, or even curious about what its services might be, would have a difficult time getting that information from the supposed firm’s actual website. It offers no contact information and, since May 2015, it has been publishing grammatically challenged posts advertising essay-writing websites for students in a variety of languages including Spanish, German, and Russian. In a similarly error-riddled fashion, AppSame has also promoted cell phone “spying” apps and online gambling. In an October 2015 post, AppSame advertised a Russian online casino game called “Елена Казино” (Elena's Casino), which was also promoted on Twitter in July of the same year by Russian accounts that seemed to be automated. Some archeological work into AppSame’s website using WayBack Machine revealed that in its genesis, in 2011, the site promoted gaming advertising. In 2013, the site underwent a makeover and veered sharply right, into the world of tea party conservative politics.

    Even though its current website has little to do with conservative politics, AppSame at some point earned the trust of both an angel investor (who reportedly provided $500,000) and at least one conservative political candidate. Federal Election Commission records demonstrate that the Heather Grant for US Senate campaign committee made a disbursement of $800 to AppSame Inc. within three months of AppSame’s Twitter endorsement of Grant’s candidacy, which was one of many that the entity made. Grant lost the 2014 Republican primary to Thom Tillis, earning a mere 4.7 percent of the vote. According to public information, the firm is located in Tampa, FL, but walk-ins seeking “political marketing services” at that location would find themselves in a quaint neighborhood boutique, as opposed to the headquarters of a digital marketing behemoth claiming to have offices in a number of states (depending on the claim, that number is either five, six, 10, or all 50) in hopes of unseating Democrats in 2018.

    Attempting to track AppSame’s links to the offline world by looking at its website domain registration is also fruitless, as it’s registered privately. A blog connected to the website, thecaped.com, appears to be registered to an Eric Stole with a Wayne, MI, address, who, based on a LinkedIn profile, is the vice president of client services for AppSame. A second LinkedIn profile, which lists him as CEO of AppSame, states that he lives in San Francisco, CA. However, a Facebook profile with information that matches his biographical details (including using the same logo as the AppSame Twitter account) states he lives in Phoenix, AZ. Interestingly, all of Stole’s Facebook friends appear to be from the Philippines, which might be explained by the fact that he claims to be an alumnus of schools located in that country. From that Facebook account, Stole offered the Bundy family $1 million to settle its legal dispute with the Bureau of Land Management. The Appsame Instagram account, which has only three posts, all featuring puppets mocking Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, has 100 followers, the vast majority of whom appear to be located in the Philippines as well. The only other LinkedIn profile of a supposed AppSame employee who is linked to  Eric Stole is for an unnamed “Manager at AppSame” who is located in Central Luzon, Philippines. Pitchbook lists Stole as the CEO of AppSame, but a public records search for his name turns up nothing that matches any of his bios. Reached for comment on Twitter, the platform of communication in which AppSame is most prolific, a representative provided Media Matters with the following ambiguous information:

    Maybe AppSame is just proof that endless retweeting, constant participation in right-wing Twitter conversations with well-placed hashtags like #TCOT, and use of the services that offer to boost one’s number of social media followers allow anyone to build impressive-seeming clout. But maybe AppSame is also evidence of something more, a playbook for political dirty tricksters to disproportionately sway conversations and influence politics via Twitter -- either by promoting false narratives, stoking racist politics, or providing a platform to fake accounts -- with little transparency about financial motivations and zero accountability.

  • Google is helping this fake news site make money off racist lies about the NFL protests

    “Wouldn’t you love to see these ingrateful rich spoiled bastards... go to the Africa and try to make a buck there?”

    Blog ››› ››› NATALIE MARTINEZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fake news purveyor Freedom Daily is violating Google AdSense’s rules against race-based incitement of hatred by smearing black NFL players through false claims that they are singling out white players for injury and other racist attacks.

    Over a one-month period, the Facebook-verified Freedom Daily has pushed over 100 articles about the recent NFL player protests in support of civil rights, many of which denigrate black players on the basis of race and falsely claim that the protests led to “racist” anti-white attacks. More significant than the verified credentials of its Facebook page, Freedom Daily’s website is monetized by Google AdSense, a service that supports advertising banners for multiple fake news sites. And in addition to Google AdSense's prohibitions against misrepresentative content, Freedom Daily’s attacks and misinformation against black players are also in violation of the service’s content policies that prohibit the "monetization of dangerous or derogatory content,” which clearly state, “Google ads may not be placed on pages containing content" that “incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race.”  

    As part of its racist NFL content, Freedom Daily has called on its readers to take matters into their own hands and act against the league and its black players specifically. In a September 20 piece, Freedom Daily wrote: “More than ever, we need to turn the television off and send the clear message that our favorite passtime (sic) will not be hijacked by these racist morons.” Soon after, the site published a list of the NFL’s 2017 sponsors and began promoting a Facebook page calling for a boycott of the NFL and its sponsors. In an article criticizing Detroit Lions anthem singer Rico Lavelle for taking a knee, the site wrote: “We all know it’s ok for blacks to kill blacks or for blacks to kill whites or Hispanics. Wouldn’t you love to see these ingrateful rich spoiled bastards, including this 3rd rate singer, go to the Africa (sic) and try to make a buck there?” In an October 9 article, Freedom Daily explicitly called on its readers to boycott the NFL in order to "punish black players."

    Freedom Daily also published a series of stories claiming that Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett had begun a trend among black players to raise a fist every time one of them sacked a white player. The site labeled the raised fist as a black power salute, saying it was “a disgusting racist symbol that black supremacists have used for decades to display their supremacy over the white race.”

    Freedom Daily went on to target New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., falsely writing that an end zone celebration in which Beckham pretended to pee like a dog was a “racist and vile” gesture to “display his supremacy over the white race.” Beckham had also raised his fist after scoring a touchdown during the same game, and Freedom Daily said that the gesture “where he pretended to urinate on the filed (sic) like an un-trained animal” was an escalation from his raised fist. “Simply flashing the black power salute wasn’t quite enough for [Beckham] to get his vile point across regarding his proclaimed black supremacy,” it stated.

    After Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr fractured his back on October 1, Freedom Daily stepped up its race-baiting conspiracy theories, speculating that in “a disgusting act of racism,” Carr’s black teammates intentionally allowed their opponents to sack him after Carr stood for the national anthem rather than kneeling with them. Freedom Daily featured Carr’s injury in multiple articles, explicitly suggesting that his race led to his injuries.

    In fact, a Media Matters survey of Freedom Daily’s content related to the NFL and the protests published between September 15 and October 15 found that 43 of 119 articles described protesting players and/or the protests as “racist” against white people. For example, 24 articles specifically stated that black players were targeting white players on the field.

    Facebook has also enabled Freedom Daily to spread its racist misinformation to a wider audience by verifying the site’s main Facebook page. Overall, stories on NFL protests have garnered significant attention on Facebook for fake news purveyors. According to the social media monitoring platform Spike, of the 50 stories with the most Facebook impressions published by fake new purveyors between September 15 and October 15, 32 focused on the NFL and anthem protests. Ten of those stories were published by Freedom Daily. But these posts, which constitute a significant portion of Freedom Daily’s traffic, seem to be prohibited based on Facebook’s community standards. According to Facebook’s hate speech policy, accounts can share links that include attacks against people on the basis of race “for the purpose of raising awareness or educating others about that hate speech,” but as such they are expected to “clearly indicate their purpose.” Freedom Daily is also potentially violating Facebook’s terms of service, which prohibit content that is “hate speech.”

    Freedom Daily’s racist misinformation extends beyond its coverage of the NFL protests. The site has posted multiple articles claiming that white people are being physically targeted as a form of reparation for slavery. In an article from February about a bill that would have established a commission to recommend potential reparations for slavery, Freedom Daily wrote: “Now we live in a country where white people are randomly targeted for the color of their skin, as black lives matter thugs take to the streets to make the entire race pay for something that happened over 200 years ago.”