Aside from Russian President Vladimir Putin and the so-called “alt-right,” Donald Trump has reportedly demonstrated a strong relationship with propaganda while on the campaign trail. Whether or not the Republican nominee himself, members of his staff, or both are actively reading or disseminating the stuff remains to be seen, but according to a new report by BuzzFeed, ample evidence suggests pro-Trump elements are doing just that … in the Republic of Macedonia.
According to the report, which builds on prior publications by the Guardian and an English-language Macedonian news site, a small town in the former Yugoslav state “has experienced a digital gold rush as locals launched at least 140 US politics websites”:
These sites have American-sounding domain names such as WorldPoliticus.com, TrumpVision365.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com. They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.
Despite the thousands of shares, likes and comments these online platforms are generating for the Trump campaign across social media, however, it seems the young Macedonians running them don’t actually support the real estate mogul. In fact, they don’t care whether or not the egregiously false information they disperse on a regular basis has any actual effects on the American election. They’re just trying to make some money:
“I started the site for a easy way to make money,” said a 17-year-old who runs a site with four other people. “In Macedonia the economy is very weak and teenagers are not allowed to work, so we need to find creative ways to make some money. I’m a musician but I can’t afford music gear. Here in Macedonia the revenue from a small site is enough to afford many things.”
What’s more, many of the website moderators interviewed by BuzzFeed stressed Trump wasn’t their first choice. A few focused on pro-Bernie Sanders and leftist content, hoping fans of the Vermont senator, rival Hillary Clinton or both would take the bait. They didn’t, but judging by the number of clicks and Google AdSense checks his named generated for the young entrepreneurs, Internet users in the U.S. overwhelmingly “[preferred] to read news about Trump.” So much that some supposedly earn “$5,000 per month” or up to “$3,000 per day.”