Some Web Sites Are Lying To You, Here’s Why

I often see people claim certain things found on the internet are not true. Sometimes they are talking about a news story, conspiracy theory, or just gossip. It seems that during these discussions almost always someone asked the question “why would they lie about this?”  The answer to this question is actually very simple, especially for those that have been doing business on the internet for any amount of time. People and companies lie on the internet to make money.

Here are a few examples of the liars among us, and why they lie.

Publication & News Websites

These are the types of websites that publish articles or blog posts. Some of these may include National media websites, or smaller niche publishers, personal blogs, health web sites, parenting magazines or pretty much any site that creates content. Almost all of them rely on advertising for their revenue. When you are reliant on advertising for your income the only way to increase the amount of money is to get more and more eyeballs looking at your content. There are lots of opportunities that a publisher can take advantage of to increase the amount of traffic to their articles however the most reliable is to provide content that a specific audience wants to read. In some situations this is easy if you have access to original information that is popular on the internet. However if you do not have exclusive access to this type of original content then the next best thing is to just make up whatever works well. For example it would be nice to have an exclusive interview with a prominent politician or business leader. However if you’re unable to gain access then why not just make up quotes or information about that person? The content can then be even more popular if the information that you’ve made up also aligns with a popular narrative on the internet. 

Social Media Influencers

Most social media influencers make money one of two ways. Promoting other companies products’ for a fee or commission. Or promoting their own products or websites. In both instances the more people they can influence or be visible to, the more money they can make. This means that the larger their social media following the more likely they are to generate more money. Oftentimes it is easier to acquire new followers or subscribers by promoting content that fits with an audience narrative or story line. In a very benign example I could promote heavily the New York Yankees on my Twitter account, and if I did so it’s likely other New York Yankee fans will begin following me. The truth is I am much more an Atlanta Braves fan, and do not care one way or the other about the New York Yankees. Other examples could include social media influencers that promote conspiracy theories or outright lies if it means that those that believe will follow them. These new followers can then be used later to help drive traffic that they make money off of. Just like the example above the more eyeballs they can attract the more money they can make.

Politicians & Political Organizers

Politicians and political organizers need to raise money for their campaigns and digital media has been the predominant fundraising mechanism for the last several years. As such it is more and more important to drive traffic and organize people around specific candidates and their websites. While it is a little bit more difficult for these types of operations to spread misinformation because they have many different fact checkers watching them, the use of misinformation and lies on the internet by politicians has increased in the last several election cycles. If it was against the law to raise money for political campaigns on the internet you would see a hell of a lot less lies and misinformation perpetuated by politicians.

Don’t they care if they get caught?

No, not really. They know that it doesn’t matter if other people point out the fact that they have just lied  to their audience, because by the time the truth is uncovered they have already made money off of traffic the article has generated. Furthermore, any controversy that has been generated creates more traffic and in turn $$. While everyone is arguing over whether or not the information is correct the content creators are busy creating their next piece of content that also includes a bunch of lies. They do not care about their reputation. They only care about generating more traffic and other metrics that turn into money later. Every time you visit a website like this, share its URL in social media, or talk more about what you’ve read, you are helping them generate more money from their lies.

Photo by Sebastiaan Stam from Pexels