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In a remarkably short time, the Daily Wire has become a far-right content juggernaut. Its two million Facebook followers place it in the realm of top publishers on the site.
But one of the secrets to the Daily Wire’s success: Move fast and break Facebook’s rules. (The others include millions of dollars from extremist conservative billionaires and bias confirmation mixed with libel.)
An investigation by Popular Information revealed that the Daily Wire uses “a clandestine network of 14 large Facebook pages” to promote its content. The pages purport to be independent and do not identify themselves as affiliated with the Daily Wire.
Yet they nearly always post exactly the same content—Daily Wire stories—at exactly the same time, all day every day, showing that they are “universally controlled.”
The Daily Wire did not respond to Popular Info’s requests for comment.
One of those pages, Conservative News, has half a million followers. Another, Don’t Mess with America, has 75,000. In its “about” section, Don’t Mess with America describes itself as if it’s run by that uncle everyone wishes would skip Thanksgiving: “I’m tired of people messin’ with America. It’s time to stop messin’ with America!”
Conservative News pretends to be a legitimate media outlet, a place to “find Conservative News […], because someone needs to challenge the Main Stream State Owned Media!”
Yet its website contains nothing but a link back to the Facebook page where it posts Daily Wire content in concert with its 13 cohorts.
Cumulatively, the 14 pages have eight million followers. This explains how the Daily Wire, in spite of having an eighth the followers of the New York Times, manages to blow the Times’ Facebook engagement per story out of the water. It also beats the Washington Post, HuffPost, and other top publishers.
In fact, the 14 pages drive roughly four times as much traffic to the Daily Wire as its main page does, Popular Info notes.
8. It's hard to overstate how good The Daily Wire is at gaming Facebook. While a average NYT article received 1871 engagements in September, the average The Daily Wire article received 15283 engagements https://t.co/Rdhzbt4V4B pic.twitter.com/TZN4M3rm0V— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) October 28, 2019
As Popular Info reports, these tactics violate Facebook’s rules against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
So what is Facebook planning to do about it? Nothing. A representative from the company told Popular Info that although the pages were engaging in deceptive behavior, it wasn’t going to do anything about it.
Facebook’s community standards define coordinated inauthentic behavior as “the use of multiple Facebook or Instagram assets, working in concert to engage in Inauthentic Behavior […], where the use of fake accounts is central to the operation.”
Inauthentic behavior is done to deceive people about who or what the page represents, the popularity or source of the content, etc.
Facebook has used this rule to ban pages in the past. Last year, it deleted left-wing activist Chris Metcalf’s seven-page network that had a cumulative 1.8 million followers, Popular Info reports.
The only difference between Metcalf and the Daily Wire’s networks is political. Metcalf is a progressive liberal. Daily Wire is run by conservative wunderkind Ben Shapiro.
Perhaps Shapiro and Mark Zuckerberg will discuss this the next time they have dinner.
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Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.