Judging by the state of Facebook feeds everywhere, fake news is now a very real problem—and one that appears to have equally real consequences by shaping political and social situations. Now, a new report puts some numbers to the costs of running a fake-news campaign, revealing that a key part of the problem may be that doing so is incredibly affordable.
There are some obvious steps required in launching a fake-news assault. First, you need some fake news—it needn’t be based on fact, but it better have a compelling headline or take the form of an easy-to-digest video, and it ought appeal to the existing biases and ideologies of potential viewers. Then, you need to push it out via social networks, using bots or real humans that you’ve coerced into doing your bidding. Finally, you’ll need likes and shares (again performed by either bots or real people) to ensure that the content saturates the feeds of your targets—and, with any luck, warps their perception of reality.