15 Jan 2018

Undercover at a Slovak fake news website

A blogger submitted a story translated from an English satiric website, and an "alternative news" site in Slovakia published it on their homepage as the main news.

Ria Gehrerová
Ria Gehrerová Denník N, Slovakia
Source: Denník N
Undercover at a Slovak fake news website - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

media, politics

He created a phony name and email address, and asked the editor-in-chief of a popular fake news website if he could work for him. With no other questions asked, Slovak blogger Jakub Goda joined the staff of Hlavné Správy (Main News).

The site published Goda's stories that fit its ideology but, for example, refused to publish one about unfulfilled promises of fascist leader and politician Marian Kotleba. The site shares a similar worldview as many other fake news websites -- pro-Russian, anti-EU/NATO/USA, anti-immigrant and nationalistic.

Goda then sent Hlavné Správy a made-up article translated from a satiric website: "Newly elected Muslim mayor wants to ban the word Christmas." Hlavné Správy published it on the homepage as its main news story. A few hours later, editors realized what happened, took down the story and fired Goda.

Slovakia, like other countries in Europe, has been hit by a wave of fake news websites. Goda was the first one in Slovakia who tried to describe the inner workings of these organizations. 

Details from the story:

  • Hlavné Správy (Main News) pretends it's a neutral news site with content about a wide range of issues, but often includes hate speech, manipulative commentary or fake news.
  • The editor-in-chief of Hlavné Správy is Róbert Sopko.
  • Writers for Hlavné Správy usually get 5 euros per article. They can get 1 euro extra for every 1,000 views over 5,000 views. Goda did not receive any money and did not sign a contract with them.
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