Flip through the radio dial, your Facebook feed or surf the Internet and you’ll find one right-wing website after another, all posing as a “trusted, conservative news” site. There’s Facebook page after Facebook page with names like “Being Conservative,” “The Tea Party,” “Jesus Daily,” or even “Being Christian” that are not official religious or political Facebook pages – they’re actually fronts for something else.
Don’t believe me? Let’s start with Being Conservative. This page is not endorsed by the Republican Party or any other conservative organization to the best of my knowledge. Instead, it seems to be little more than a page looking for people who say to themselves, “Yeah, I’m proud to be a conservative! Take that, liberals!” before hitting the “like” button on Facebook and going about their day – and with just shy of 3 million “likes,” it seems to be a good strategy.
Next, there’s The Tea Party, not to be confused with the verified page “Tea Party Patriots” which is considered by Facebook to be the official Tea Party page. The Tea Party decided to go with name recognition and when you search for the Tea Party on Facebook, they’re the first one that pops up. As such, they have almost 2.6 million “likes” compared to the Tea Party Patriots who have about half that at 1.4 million.
How about “Jesus Daily“? With images that implore you to “Say AMEN if Jesus saves!!!!!!!!” Jesus Daily has managed to collect over 26 million “likes,” which puts it up there with Wal-Mart as far as reach goes. George Takei has 7.26 million “likes,” just in case you need to put that into perspective.
Then we have “Being Christian” which you would think isn’t political, but unfortunately, it is. More on that in a little bit. At the time of this publication, Being Christian has around 4.75 million “likes” and continues to grow daily. Again, people “like” things on Facebook to show off their beliefs and hobbies to their social network and not necessarily because they’re interested in what the page or its owners have to say.
“So what’s the deal, Manny?” is what you’re probably wanting to asking me right now. Each and every one of these Facebook pages use a religious or political belief to make money, lots of it – and these are just a few examples out of thousands of others. In the case of “Being Christian,” it’s front to lure well-meaning Christians to read and share stories like “There’s Another Group of Tough ‘Angels’ On Wheels and These Guys Aren’t Putting Up With Child Abuse.”
After all, who wouldn’t want to click on that link, watch the video and then share the “awwww” with their friends? Except if you look a little closer, the URL for that site is liftbump.ijreview.com which means it is a subdomain of ijreview.com. Ijreview.com is the conservative version of Upworthy, so every time you click the links and share them, you just helped put advertising money in the pockets of entities you may not necessarily agree with.
“Okay, okay, so that’s just one page. Please don’t spoil the internet for me with your cynicism” might be your response. Ok, fine, let’s move on to “Jesus Daily” shall we?
Who wouldn’t want to click on something like “She Stayed Alive to Have Her Daughter… but Refusing Chemo Doomed Her. I Couldn’t Stop the Tears…”?
This is what’s known as “clickbait” which is described as follows:
(Internet marketing, pejorative) Website content that is aimed at generating advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines to attract click-throughs; such headlines. (Source)
Previously, Dr. Tabor had stated that he was not making any money off the Facebook page, but on this page he is promoting now, someone certainly is judging from the fact that there is advertising on the website.
Due to how new the site is, I was unable to run the Alexa analysis on it which would have shown how much traffic he was actually getting, but with over 26 million subscribers it has to be pretty substantial. While I’m not a Christian, I still find it both disturbing and disgusting that a fad diet doctor is now using the good intentions of believers to make money. This isn’t the first time it’s been done, remember Jimmy Swaggart and the other TV televangelists who have made millions doing something similar?
The same thing goes for “The Tea Party” which uses their Facebook page to direct their fans to tpnn.com which features stories like “REPORT: Illegal Aliens Wearing Obama Shoes Saying ‘YES WE CAN’” or “VIDEO: Crazed Adult Abortion Activist Bullies Pro-Life Teen” in addition to pleas for donations.
What’s really puzzling is why a website that currently ranks 871 in the United States, charges thousands of dollars a month for advertising, sells merchandise, is registered as a 501(c)(4) non-profit and claims over 12,000,000 monthly viewers would also need donations.
Unless perhaps the owners of Stop This Insanity, Inc were using the PAC to enrich themselves and not donating one penny to a candidate? Oh yeah, that happened.
Finally, we have “Being Conservative” which seems to be little more than a petition collection and t-shirt sales page posing as being a legitimate conservative cause Facebook page. So what’s the deal with petitions? If you have almost 3 million “likes,” that’s potentially a lot of petition signers and petition lists are good money. Just ask Change.org in case you’re curious.
Change.org charges groups for the privilege of sponsoring petitions that are matched to users who have similar interests. For example, when a person signs a petition about education and clicks “submit,” a box pops up and shows five sponsored petitions on education to also sign. If a user leaves a box checked that says “Keep me updated on this campaign and others,” the sponsor can then send e-mails directly to that person. It’s not clear from the check box that your e-mail address is being sold to a not-for-profit. Rattray says an imminent site redesign will make the company’s business model more transparent. Change.org has 300 paying clients, including Sierra Club, Credo Wireless and Amnesty International, and its revenue so far this year is $15 million.
So what am I suggesting that you do? As I’ve suggested before, be careful as to what you like or share on social media. Take a minute or two to see what agenda or website Facebook pages are actually promoting instead of blindly sharing an image with a quote on it or a viral video that you like. And finally, if you or someone you know subscribes to these pages or shares from their websites, clicking “unlike” or warning those who do is a great first step.
We cannot rid the internet of political and ideological grifters, but we can certainly make it less profitable for them by educating ourselves and others about how they manipulate people.
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