Monday, December 19, 2016

Rural areas have been the victims of fake internet news stories, often involving celebrities

Fake election news stories were more popular
on Facebook than real ones (BuzzFeed graphic)
Rural areas are not immune to the growing phenomenon of fake "news" stories, Craig Silverman and Jeremy Singer-Vine report for BuzzFeed News. One of the more prevalent fake motifs has celebrities moving to a small city or town. BuzzFeed counted at least 342 such stories.

For example, Hot Springs, Ark., which relies on a booming tourist industry of 3 million annual visitors, thought it was getting a new celebrity resident when a social-media story reported that Clint Eastwood was moving there, BuzzFeed reports. Local residents and news ouitlets began reporting the story, but Steve Arrison, CEO of the Hot Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau noticed something was off when the same site reported a similar story about singer Katy Perry moving to a small town in Texas.

"These stories appeared on sites with legitimate-sounding news domains such as,,, and," BuzzFeed reports. "The design of each site was strikingly similar—often just the colors and the name were changed. The text, too, was a simple copy-and-paste effort; just the celebrity’s name and location were changed from one story to the next. It quickly proved to be an effective strategy as the stories began to spread across the internet."

Experts say the local focus is part of the trick, so that people in one small town aren't aware the same type of news is occurring in another small town, BuzzFeed reports. Other sites say films are being shot in a town, or "Male celebrities suddenly had very complimentary things to say about the women in specific towns. Celebrities began getting flat tires in obscure places, naming somewhat obscure locales as their favorite vacation spots and buying homes in unexpected communities." (Read more)

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