The success of The Daily Wire, the website run by right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, on Facebook is mind-boggling. The site has a small staff and primarily aggregates content from Twitter and other news outlets. Typically, its articles are very short, usually less than 500 words, and contain no original reporting.
And yet, last month, The Daily Wire was the seventh-ranked publisher on Facebook, according to the analytics service NewsWhip. Articles published in The Daily Wire attracted 60,616,745 engagements in May. Engagement is a combination of shares, likes, and comments, and is a way of quantifying distribution on Facebook. The reach of The Daily Wire’s articles was equal to the New York Times (60,722,727) and more than the Washington Post (49,219,525).
But that actually understates how well The Daily Wire does on Facebook. While the New York Times published 15,587 articles in May, and the Washington Post published 8,048, The Daily Wire published just 1,141. On a per article basis, The Daily Wire receives more distribution than any other major publisher. And it’s not close.
What explains The Daily Wire’s phenomenal success on Facebook? Popular Information revealed part of the answer last October. But the full story is much darker.
Popular Information has discovered a network of large Facebook pages — each built by exploiting racial bias, religious bigotry, and violence — that systematically promote content from The Daily Wire. These pages, some of which have over 2 million followers, do not disclose a business relationship with The Daily Wire. But they all post content from The Daily Wire ten or more times each day. Moreover, these pages post the exact same content from The Daily Wire at the exact same time.
The undisclosed relationship not only helps explain The Daily Wire’s unlikely success on Facebook but also appears to violate Facebook’s rules.
The network of large Facebook pages promoting The Daily Wire are all run by Corey and Christy Pepple, who are best known as the creators of Mad World News. Facebook pages controlled by the Pepples include Mad World News (2,176,003 followers), The New Resistance (2,857,876 followers), Right Stuff (610,809 followers), America First (577,753 followers), and American Patriot (447,799 followers).
The reach of these pages is massive. Content posted to these five pages has generated more than 31 million engagements on Facebook over the last three months, according to CrowdTangle, an analytics service owned by Facebook. To put that in perspective, the reach of the network over this time period exceeds the New York Times (28 million engagements), the Washington Post (20 million engagements), and HuffPost (19 million engagements).
How did the pages like Mad World News and The New Resistance grow so big? They did it by exploiting racism, religious bigotry, and violence. [Continue reading…]