“The FBI will publish new evidence about the pedophilia ring connected to Hillary Clinton.” This was the main topic of an article published on Bients.com and ThePredicted.com. Citing a fake FBI document, the article implied the former Democratic presidential candidate in a serious crime. Even though the news was not based on evidence, it had received tens of thousands of clicks and received thousands of likes on Facebook.
In the meantime, a student in Kosovo noticed how Google AdSense money was trickling into his bank account. Both pages distributing the news were owned by a young man from Gjilan, who was paid hundreds of euros per day for the ads. The strategy was simple: the more clicks per day, the more money earned by advertisements. For the same reason he had registered 11 other portals in Albania, distributing fake news in order to receive as many as possible clicks.
The owner’s name is Hysen Alimi, a young guy from Kosovo, who has studied Management and Informatics at the University of Gjilan. Regardless of the fact that he lives 8,000 km away from the USA and speaks little English, the became an administrator for at least 11 online portals focused on American politics.
Hyseni owns several portals that bear American names like Bients.com, ThePredicted.com, PoliticsBreaking.com, and BernieMyHero.com. All these websites are registered in Albania. The sites distributed mainly pro-Bernie Sanders news, targeting the people disappointed by Hillary Clinton.
Senator Sanders was the main opponent of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Sanders’s electoral basis consisted primarily of new voters and students who used Facebook as an important tool to organize campaigns and as a means to be informed about the latest news in the American political scene.
For Hyseni this was a golden opportunity to create a “fan page” for Senator Sanders, aiming to attract a large number of supporters to his new websites. And not without success. The page was created on March 2016 and has as of today 86,000 followers on Facebook. Despite pictures of Senator Sanders, the website distributes fake news fabricated by Hysen Alimi.
American journalist John Matte, who has investigated the fake news issue and the impact of made-up news during the American electoral campaign expressed to Gazeta Shqiptare that “it is strange that a person with no knowledge of American politics creates a couple of sites to cover this theme.”
Mattes further adds that Hyseni was an important person in the “network” that distributed fake news for Bernie Sanders supporters, because he administered one of the biggest Bernie Sanders fan pages on Facebook.
Why would a person, who owns several pages in Albania, open a fan page pretending that he is in USA?
Gazeta Shqiptare contacted Hysen Alimi by email; he claimed that the pages that he owned were legitimate sources of news.
“We have a simple website for Bernie Sanders supporters and the news is real. We are just a fan page.” When asked how many people administered this website, Alimi replied: “I don’t want to tell you.”
If you look at several different website that calculate the income generated by website ads each day, it is easy to understand why Hysen Alimi chose this way. Bients.com, his most popular website, received 200,904 clicks during the peak of the election aftermath generating around €400 per day.
This case shows how some people looked at the American elections not only with simple interest and admiration, but also as a source of profit.
This article was first published by Gazeta Shqiptare. It has been translated with the author’s permission.