From Alternative Health to Fake News in a few easy clicks

What do lifestyle blogging, local news, and right-wing hyperpartisan news have in common?

That’s right—they can all be monetized for clicks.

From four years ago up until last month, a food and lifestyle blog called Your Daily Magazine dispensed recipes for Greek yogurt chocolate mousse and Keto lunches and the like. Their Facebook following was not huge, but Macedonian accounts often shared recipes or life advice from Your Daily Magazine in groups. Their images were scraped from other food blogs, and their content was stolen too. Not grand theft in the scheme of things, but I bet they did decent business.

This morning, Your Daily Magazine is gone. The domain exists, but the page brings up a diminutive “hello”.

But here’s the thing. I caught it in the act of transforming, mushrooming into a network, and then vanishing, leaving its tracks only in the internet’s voluminous archives.

Gone is the happy talk about weight loss and must-see destinations. Here is the super-specific local news from Concord CA, West Seneca NY, and the like—with fake authors, fake addresses, and scraped content.

Here, too, is hyperpartisan, democracy-destabilizing, right-wing disinformation about US elections being propagated on Parler.

Let’s work backwards in history, all the way back to Your Daily Magazine‘s start.

WorldNewes.com and DailyPatriotPost.com

In early November, a few newly-created Parler accounts began promoting links to two newly-created MAGA websites: DailyPatriotPost.com and WorldNewes.com. Those Parler accounts, @DailyPatriotPost, @WorldNewes, @ConservativesArmy, and @RepublicansLifeNews have all been made private now. But while they were public, from around the last days of October to about the end of November, their Parlers often got hundreds of thousands of impressions.

Another Parler account @StopTheStealParler is still public, heftily posting memes and links to the above two websites. It only got started in late October, and in the early part of its life exclusively promoted another website, HappyHealthyAndWell.com. Contrary to what its name suggests, the content on Happy Healthy And Well is all-MAGA-all-the-time, though the header up top is still lifestyle themed.

On November 10, Happy Healthy And Well stopped posting. World Newes picked up the baton on the same day, as seen archived by the Wayback Machine, with a look cloned from Happy Healthy And Well, shown below.

In less than a month, these websites have achieved quite a reach among the GOP/MAGA base. Their articles are often shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Parler. One of their articles was even provided as a “source” for fake news story (“US military seized a server from Germany”) by a Republican candidate for a House seat in Fairfax, VA.

The linked articles will sound familiar to anyone who has Trump devotees in their circle. The earliest is dated November 10th, a day after the domains were registered, and instantly starts with casting doubt on the 2020 election. Other posts inflame the usual culture war resentments. One article on Daily Patriot Post even links George Soros to the Dominion voting machines, that form the heart of the conspiracy theory promoted by Trump’s lawyers. Give them points for viral marketing, if not for creativity.

Of course these articles weren’t actually written by the “authors”—a “Jack Arthur” and a “James Miller”, because they don’t actually exist.

Further digging reveals further oddities. Here’s the set of links in the footer of the page:

Leave aside the fly-by-night nature of leaving a sample page in. Notice the word “Mejlovi”—what does that mean? According to Google Translate, it means “Emails” in Croatian. Sure enough, it leads to the subscription page where you enter your email address. Clearly the WordPress page was coded by someone who speaks Croatian. Put a pin in that and let’s continue.

Scroll back through the archives back to the first page. Strangely, these MAGA-themed websites were pushing lifestyle themes back in 2019, such as the ever-popular “By putting a cotton ball of VaporRub in ear all night, see what will happen”. All these posts were written by other fake authors: “Peter Hawk” and “Peter James”.

The most recent lifestyle-themed post occurs in August 2020. Then in abruptly in November, they switch to right-wing disinformation. But we just “saw” the domains being registered, and the apparent origin of the websites on the Internet Archive (image above), on November 9/10! Did they rewrite history?

The only theory that fits the facts is that the owner of these websites owned a lifestyle WordPress blog, and possessed ready-made content that could be imported wholesale, in order to provide a feeling of longevity for his nascent sites.

The Blogspot disguise

Say you are a demoralized Trump supporter, on Parler now because of big tech’s censorship of your favorite President. The entire world seems to be against you and him. But on Parler, you meet nice, upbeat people who assure you the election was stolen. They assure you it can be won back. Each day brings new reports of fraud; the Kraken, when unleashed onto the legal system, will set the world right. Nice, smiling ladies like one Barbara Kelly, a Patriot, or an Amanda Rogers, are here to spread this special knowledge, that mainstream media is determined to keep from you.

But you know who is a truth teller? Whoever created “BreakingReportWorldNews.blogspot.com”.

What you, a demoralized Trump supporter may not realize, is that as soon as you click on the Blogspot link above, it will redirect you to WorldNewes.com which is run out of Macedonia. Or that the “NewstKrakenRelease” blogspot just leads you to UrbaniumMax.com. Another super-specific blogspot leads to 247FoxNews.com.

In fact, it turns out, the above two websites are exact clones of DailyPatriotPost.com, down to the same author id: outwardly, Joe Davis, internally: “i3neckanbe“.

The blogspot blogs appear to be thrown up, one per topic, only as a way to cover the tracks of the actual links. This way, they can fool tracking software such as CrowdTangle that looks for particular URLs to judge traffic to a site. As such, the statistics gathered by CrowdTangle for impressions for these sites could not be telling the whole story.


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The Local News clones

Google Analytics is a service that allows website owners to place identifiers in their all their websites in order to track their performance. These identifiers can be used to determine which seemingly unrelated websites are actually owned by the same person or group.

Tracking outwards from the identifiers in WorldNewes.com and DailyPatriotPost.com, we find a whole bunch of websites, clearly belonging to the same owner, that appear to all be focused on hyperlocal news from cities around the US. Oceanside in California, Rochester New York, Round Rock in Texas, and about five clones of a West Seneca/Buffalo New York website: A Daily Book.

The content is clearly scraped. For example, the top story on the Buffalo news website is local news about a fatal accident, lifted word-for-word from WTEN, an ABC affiliate. The image is scraped too.

The authors though? The most toxic propaganda eventually turns into absurdity, and that’s where we are. Their names are bland and believable enough: “Steve R Williams”, “Vanessa A Taylor” and the like (incidentally, foreign fake websites for the US market do like to give very Anglo-Saxon names to their personas). But their nice-looking images are stolen. In this About page for A Daily Book, both co-founders’ images are stolen from the page honoring the Class of 2020 at the Utah State University, College of Engineering; “Vanessa” is actually Jessica Cooper, and “Steve” is actually Esteban Womack.

Their bios are made up too. Vanessa is apparently a “book warm” and a Mormon—very likely at the Utah State University, not terribly likely in Buffalo, New York. Steve is a reporter at the “Weekend Anchor”, which doesn’t exist. Another page (now vanished) had author images lifted from Shutterstock, and one claimed to have been a Pulitzer Prize winner in 2014 (“he” wasn’t).

It goes on. Their publications claim to be LLCs—which they aren’t. Their physical addresses often lead to the town court or City Hall. And, notably, the registrant of their domains, as found in Who Is services, are often in Macedonia. Put a pin in that as well, we will return to it.

Footer of one of the local news sites (Concord, CA)
Contact Us address on the West Seneca local news clones
Domain registration showing registrant in Macedonia

Your Daily Magazine

Based on analytics then, it is clear that the local news cluster is owned by the same person or group as WorldNewes.com and DailyPatriotPost.com. Another domain that shares the analytics identifier and private mail server is YourDailyMagazine.com—the domain of the lifestyle blog Your Daily Magazine that we started with. In fact, this is the oldest domain of the set, in existence since December 8, 2016. Its Facebook page has been in existence since December 21, 2016: just a couple weeks after.

Since the analytics that I gathered from the Internet’s Wayback Machine show an unbroken history since early 2017, we can be confident that the original registrant of YourDailyMagazine.com owns WorldNewes.com and DailyPatriotPost.com (or at least is part of the same group).

The name of this person is [NAME REDACTED DUE TO LEGAL THREAT], from Skopje, Macedonia.

In the year after he set it up, a person with his name on Facebook was sharing links to Your Daily Magazine on various Facebook groups, as were other Macedonian accounts, including one who used an image of an unrelated Macedonian surgeon as his profile pic. In the year after, accounts with his email address were posting on the occasionally-skeevy Internet marketing forum Black Hat World on topics related to health blogs.

I think we can be pretty confident that the original registrant of YourDailyMagazine.com, from Skopje, Macedonia, is either the hidden owner of World Newes and Daily Patriot Post, or works for them.

Alt Health to Fascist Propaganda in a few easy clicks

This isn’t “the Russians”—not this time. These are the petty thieves and grifters of the Internet, not military intelligence.

This group peddles clicks for weight-loss recipes, or local accidents and events, or gorgeous desserts. They push links on Facebook, Pinterest, or Parler, as it makes sense. When their websites needed recipes, they scraped content from other websites that real people put great effort into, such as Cozy Peach Kitchen. When they needed local news content, they merely lifted from professional journalists, such as WTEN ABC.

And now that right-wing disinformation is lucrative, they pick up content from Gateway Pundit, Wayne Dupree, and the like. The sort of gullible people who would click on Keto recipes on a garbage site with misspellings, bad grammar, and unprofessional styling, are now clicking on a barrage of stories about voter fraud in the 2020 election. Not a single one of these stories pan out, but there’s always another, and another.

This is how gullible people in the US come to believe that their democracy is dead; that Trump is a savior; and to save him and their nation, they must pray, or take up arms—or cheer when he tries to steal the Presidency back. All for a few clicks.


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