A 77-page report released today by cyber-security firm Trend Micro explores the underground landscape of fake news, where anyone can buy influence and create artificial trends to serve personal interests.
An examination of Chinese, Russian, Middle Eastern, and English-based underground fake news marketplaces reveals a wide range of services available on these portals.
The report explores several websites where customers can purchase services ranging from "discrediting journalists" to "promoting street protests," and from "stuffing online polls" to "manipulating a decisive course of action," such as an election.
Below is a list of prices the Trend Micro team has compiled while investigating these sites:
According to researchers, the typical clients of such services are interested in warping the way others perceive reality. These services are usually used for character assassination, swaying political trends, or creating fake celebrities.
Fighting such attacks is near impossible without going after the operators of these services, who are often registered as legal companies. The only way to limit the impact of such cyber propaganda is by user education.
Some of the dead give-away signs of a fake news site are are clickbait headlines, domains that spoof legitimate news services, visibly Photoshopped photos, no article timestamps, no author name, no source or other verifiable details.
Further, Trend Micro researchers recommend "getting out of the 'filter bubble' by reading news from a broader range of reputable sources. Stories that don’t align with your own beliefs don’t necessarily mean they’re fake."
More details, case studies, and screenshots of sites peddling fake news services are available in Trend Micro's The Fake News Machine report.
A Facebook “like” farm has been shutdown. 2 Chinese guys busted in Thailand: overstayed visa, illegally importing phones, unregistered SIMs pic.twitter.com/0v6sLf7xGj— the grugq (@thegrugq) June 11, 2017
Image credits: Trend Micro