The metabolism of fake news seems continues to speed up.
Shortly after a fire broke out at Trump Tower in Manhattan, the verified Facebook page Neon Nettle shared a story on Facebook claiming that Donald Trump was “feared dead” in the small rooftop blaze, writing:
Fears are mounting for Donald Trump’s safety after a huge fire has suddenly broken out at Trump Tower in New York. The President has yet to be accounted for with many fearing the fire could be deliberate.
A link to that post was shared 70 times on Facebook as of this writing.
A follow-up post written about 30 minutes later upped the ante, claiming that the fire was an attempt to kill President Trump, in a post titled “Trump Tower Fire Was a ‘Deep State’ Assassination Attempt On The President”:
Following the massive fire that broke out at the Trump Tower in New York this morning, fears that President Donald Trump may have been a victim of a ‘deep state’ assassination attempt have begun to circulate. The President still has yet to be counted for as many fear the fire was ‘deliberate’ as dozens of firefighters scramble to tackle the inferno at Fifth Avenue in New York. Alex Jones recently claimed the deep state’s had a long-term plan in place to remove the president from office by assassination, you only have to look at the like of John Lennon, Gandhi, Martin Luther King who stood up to the New World Order.
Neon Nettle is a relatively small fish in the fake news ocean, though it is so brazenly cynical that even alt-right Reddit clone Voat had a several posts in its Pizzagate forum alerting members that Neon Nettle was fake news. (Put another way: Even people who believed that a Washington D.C. pizza parlor was the focal point for a global ring of pedophiles thought Neon Nettle was a bridge too far.)
Neon Nettle appears, from the outside, to be a single person writing under multiple pen names — the site uses several different bylines, but all share similar linguistic and syntactical quirks. It seems to monetize via recirculation boxes run by the company Revcontent, a content recommendation service similar to Outbrain. It has over a half million fans on Facebook, and its stories are a mixture of factually true tabloid stories (“Naked Man Launches Attack in Phuket Airport After Overdosing on Viagra”) and astoundingly fake ones (“Justin Bieber Shapeshifts Into Reptile at Airport Causing MASS PANIC”).
None of what Neon Nettle is doing is new. It’s well established that fake news can be profitable, particularly thanks to its ability to spread quickly on Facebook. Facebook has made various efforts to stop its spread, but little seems to be working. Sites like Neon Nettle continue to operate unchecked, reacting quickly to the news cycle with a new ways to garner clicks on Facebook with completely fabricated news.