During the run up to the recent U.S. presidential election, many sensational stories hit the headlines and social media, many of which have since been dubbed fake news. Some say these headlines were what caused President elect Donald J. Trump to win the race. Since the elections were held, there has been much talk of these stories, doing the rounds on Facebook, and one BBC reporter has tracked down where some of this “news” actually came from.

Emma Jane Kirby recently visited the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia, or to be more exact, the small city of Veles. Here the reporter managed to interview a bunch of school kids who had been making thousands of dollars in advertising revenue from their own fake news websites.

It turns out they were basically plagiarizing stories from some of the more extreme Right Wing websites and in the process, getting rich.


She interviewed a boy who she dubs “Goran” in a café in Veles who, while making sure she spotted his expensive designer watch, told her that the Americans loved their stories and went on to say they made lots of money from them, adding, "Who cares if they are true or false?" Goran is reportedly only one of possibly hundreds of teenagers in Macedonia who churned out pro-Trump, Fake News during the election campaign.

He reportedly started publishing the stories last summer, by copying and pasting articles he found on the Far Right websites, giving them a new, click-bait headline, and then paid for Facebook advertising to ensure his target audience read them, liked them, and most importantly, shared them on the social media platform.

Money for expensive clothing from fake news websites

While Goran says he only earned around 1,800 euros ($1,939) in a month, he said his friends were earning that much and more every day.

When Kirby asked him if he and his friends are worried that his fake news might have influenced voters in the U.S., he laughed, saying teens in his city don’t care who the Americans vote for, they just want money to buy expensive clothing and drinks.

One of the other teenagers interviewed by the BBC reporter said he worked on his websites for eight hours every night, while attending school during the day. Buzzfeed also managed to interview various teens who had been involved in the rather dodgy, but not actually illegal, practice.

According to a senior investigative journalist in Veles interviewed by Kirby, she has managed to identify at least seven separate teams of school kids peddling the false news online, but she estimates there are probably hundreds of school children involved and she worries for the morality of young people in Veles.

Veles gets a new name from the results of the fake news

In a town where the average monthly salary is 350 euros ($377) a month, the fake news websites were a welcome boost to the youngsters’ pockets. Reportedly when the town of Veles was part of the former Yugoslavia, it was called Titov Veles, in honor of the Yugoslavian president in office at that time, but according to Kirby, it has now been rather appropriately dubbed “Trump Veles.”

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