1. A lot of people were fooled this week into thinking that Donald Trump had locked up the election thanks to the Amish.
A story making the rounds online claims that Amish people have pledged their votes to Trump in such numbers as to “mathematically guarantee” him a win come Nov. 8.
According to the article, there are 20 million Amish, and enough of them live in key swing states to make it impossible for Hillary Clinton to win the White House now that this religious community has lined up behind her opponent.
In fact, there are fewer than 300,000 Amish people in the US, and many of them do not vote.
2. The hoax was published on abcnews.com.co — and it appears at first to be a real news article by ABC News.
The abcnews.com.co website is owned by Paul Horner, a longtime prankster who owns many other websites with similarly misleading URLs meant to fool careless readers into sharing his hoaxes. (Another site of his is cnn.com.de.)
Horner told BuzzFeed News he doesn’t identify as a Democrat or Republican, but he is definitely not a Trump fan, saying the Republican candidate would set America back decades. Horner said he takes great pleasure from the idea that some Trump supporters might have been convinced to stay home on election day because the Amish had already delivered the election to the Republican nominee.
“I definitely want to do my part,” Horner said.
Horner’s article about the Amish vote had generated more than 85,000 comments, likes, and shares on Facebook by Friday afternoon. According to Horner, it racked up about 750,000 page views in two days.
“Trump supporters are just clinging on to anything, any possible hope, of something positive that could show a possible Trump win,” Horner said. “That’s why I think that story is going so viral right now.”
3. The story also got a major assist from Google, which classified Horner’s post as a real news article originating with ABC News.
Horner said he has a background in computer science and online marketing, and his skills in search engine optimization have helped give his stories prominent placement in Google search results.
4. At least two conservative blogs picked up Horner’s story, treating it as fact. (They later updated with corrections.)
This isn’t the first time Horner has managed to troll conservatives. Two other stories of his that got wide pickup claimed that Barack Obama had banned the pledge of allegiance and that people were being paid as much as $3,500 to protest at Trump rallies. The latter story was shared by major political figures including Ann Coulter and Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s then-– manager.
“It’s just fun to mock the far right because they don’t fact-check,” Horner said. “They just put anything out there.”
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