Fake news sites are using Amazon to hire their writers

Don't you dare call it "reporting."

Updated ·2 min read
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It appears that right wing websites that traffic in "alt-right" fake news are using Amazon's Mechanical Turk system to recruit writers to produce content for them. The Mechanical Turk platform is an "odd-job board" where companies can hire random folks from the internet to perform a variety of menial online tasks, like filling out surveys or transcribing audio. In this case, white supremacist outlet The Goldwater wants people to produce "news" articles for $5 a pop.

The advert, which has since been removed, requested that applicants write in the style of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and other white nationalist media personalities. "At times, we may give you a conspiracy theory to write about. Roll with it," the post continues. "You are a reporter now!" Of course, regurgitating baseless conspiracy theories on the web doesn't make you a reporter any more than pouring water in a Cup-Noodle makes you a chef. These people aren't covering actual news, they're generating SEO fodder that pads the site's Google page rankings and provides a platform for banner ad sales -- which is why Google has recently taken steps to bar its adsense ads from running on such garbage sites.

This isn't the first time that The Goldwater has crowdsourced its writers. A similar ad for a post titled "Predictable: First Lesbian Bishop of Stockholm Boots Out Christ and Welcomes Mohammed" has already been published on the Goldwater website. And it certainly won't be the last.

"When objectionable HITs are posted, there is a link on the HIT for workers to report it to Amazon, but there is no follow up from Amazon with the worker on what action is taken, if any, Online labor "advocate Rochelle LaPlante told Motherboard. "I reported the HITs last night using that report button, but there's no way for me to know if Amazon saw and removed it before it was completed by workers, or if Amazon has taken any action against the requester's account."