Fake News Sites Are Cashing In With Creepy Clown Hoaxes

    Be very skeptical of any stories about clowns.

    Stories about menacing clowns are suddenly everywhere, but a lot of them are complete hoaxes.

    TMZWorldStar

    It all started with reports in late August of two clowns allegedly trying to lure a young boy in Greenville, South Carolina, to a house in the woods. Although that incident appears to have been genuine, it touched off a wave of creepy clown sightings across North America, many of which later turned out to be made up.

    It's all had serious real-world consequences. These real and fabricated clown crimes have led to traffic accidents, multiple arrests, school lockdowns, and perhaps even one death.

    Fake news outlets have eagerly jumped on the trend, driving enormous amounts of traffic to their websites by fooling readers.

    BuzzSumo

    Stories about clown-related deaths are especially popular. Fake articles about people killing clowns, being killed by clowns, or being mistaken for clowns (and being killed as a result) have gotten tens of thousands of shares on Facebook, where the hoaxes are most popular, according to social tracking site Buzzsumo.

    Many of the stories have been debunked by Snopes.com and others, but fake news sites keep pumping them out. The ads on these websites will generate many hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for the owners.

    One site in particular has gotten hundreds of thousands of Facebook shares for its fake clown news.

    The Daily Finesser

    The Daily Finesser, a website that describes its work as satire, was only registered in mid-September. The story above, about a man dressed as a clown getting shot, has been shared almost 300,000 times on Facebook.

    The Daily Finesser is part of Huzler, a network of hoax news sites that spent much of the summer promoting bogus stories about Pokémon Go, including tales of death, murder, and dismemberment as a result of the mobile game.

    The owner of Huzler, Pablo Reyes, told BuzzFeed News the Daily Finesser is "one of many sites I have where I write hoax articles at the right time and they seem to go viral."

    Reyes and a friend write all the articles, he added. Unlike many of his competitors, though, Reyes discloses that it's all fake.

    "We make it really obvious," he said. "At the bottom there’s a disclaimer. We say it’s for entertainment purposes only.”

    Nevertheless, Reyes said a lot of people probably don't realize they're being duped, and others do but share the articles anyway.

    Facebook

    Reyes said he only writes his fake news in his spare time as a hobby. And it's all quite lucrative.

    He did not want to give a specific number, but he said all his fake news sites combined bring in a six-figure sum in profit each year.

    “It’s just a hobby and it pays. So why not?"

    UPDATE

    Updated with comments from Pablo Reyes.

    Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

    Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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