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One of the kings of fake internet news is now claiming to be a king-maker, too.
Paul Horner, a 38-year-old creator of some of the biggest internet hoaxes online, told the Washington Post in an interview this week that he believes “Trump is in the White House because of me.”
The problem, says Horner—who is unabashed in his attempts to dupe people into sharing fake news, from which he says he earns around $10,000 a month in revenue from Google AdSense—is that “people are dumber” and completely undiscerning in what they share and believe.
“Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore—I mean, that’s how Trump got elected,” Horner said. “He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Fake news has become the hot-button topic in post-election America, putting Google and, particularly, Facebook under fire for not better policing the false stories that are available through their platforms. A BuzzFeed News study published on Wednesday fueled the fire further, with data showing that Facebook users engaged with fake news stories more than articles—mostly opinion articles—from legitimate news sources, like the Washington Post and Politico.
One of Horner’s hoaxes even made its way into the upper echelons of the Trump campaign, with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski sharing his fake story about an person getting paid $3,500 by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign to protest Trump. “Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist,” Horner said.
“I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots,” Horner added. “But Trump supporters—they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad].”
Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.