NEW YORK, Ny. – Twelve Russian nationals were taken into custody on Thursday after heavily armed FBI agents conducted a pre-dawn raid on a warehouse in Manhattan’s Garment District where authorities say a fake news manufacturing ring has been operating with near impunity for the last eighteen months.
“We’ve struck a major blow to the fake news industry,” announced Special Agent Walter Greenwald during a press conference at the FBI’s Manhattan office. “These despicable individuals have – for months – deliberately manipulated the public’s perception with the sole purpose of turning a profit.” Special Agent Greenwald said the FBI confiscated more than a dozen printing press machines which the suspects used to mass-produce fake newspapers before peddling them on street corners to unsuspecting New Yorkers.
Describing the operation as “highly sophisticated,” authorities said the perpetrators were able to produce thousands of knock-off newspapers per week at a cost of mere pennies, meanwhile netting upwards of $1.50 a pop for the illicit tabloids. “They were making a killing,” explained one law enforcement official who spoke to Real News Right Now on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press. Among the mountains of evidence seized during the raid, the official said FBI agents recovered tens of thousands of copies of a multi-page fake news publication titled The New York Toast, a seemingly obvious imitation of the popular and widely circulated New York Post.
However, according to Special Agent Greenwald, the FBI’s discovery of the illegal printing press operation is only the tip of the iceberg. During Tuesday’s press conference, Greenwald produced what appeared to be a freshly printed copy of The Wall Street Journal. “What you’re looking at is a fake newspaper,” explained Greenwald. “It’s not real.” Indeed, the object was in fact a molded slab of plastic which, from a distance, resembled a real newspaper. Greenwald said the counterfeit item was one of nearly a quarter million fabrications that have been seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents over the past month.
Authorities described a disturbing hierarchy in the underground world of fake news where anonymous individuals and organizations – many of whom identify themselves by cryptic pseudonyms or aliases – compete for “likes,” views, and shares. “Those with the most shares reign supreme,” said “Brian,” a former fake news producer who spoke to Real News Right Now on Tuesday. “It’s a cutthroat multi-national enterprise where no news is safe.”
The widespread fake news epidemic, which became especially prolific in the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election, has become an issue of national debate. Under mounting pressure, both Google and Facebook have announced plans to crack down on the spread of fake news.