Fake news has dominated the headlines recently.
The spread of fiction masquerading as fact has been blamed for everything from Donald Trump’s US election win, to the normalisation of the alt-right to the spread of Russian propaganda. It’s become such a widespread problem that both Google and Facebook have taken steps to stop fake news sites from making money through their advertising services.
Now, it seems, fake news writers have a brand new target: Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
According to a report on Bloomberg News, Musk has recently been the subject of several scathing pieces accusing him of wasting billions of US taxpayers’ money. Three conservative websites ran the pieces “Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9”, “Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace” and “Here’s How Elon Musk Stole $5 Billion in Taxpayer Dollars.”
All of the above pieces were credited to an author named Shepard Stewart. However, after a little digging, it was revealed that Shepard Stewart doesn’t exist.
“[Stewart is] definitely a fake,” Gavin Wax, editor-in-chief of the Liberty Conservative website told Bloomberg News. Wax was understandably unimpressed since his was the site that originally ran one of the above pieces.
“[Stewart] went totally dark on us after we published him,” Wax said and it was discovered that a photograph the author uses is an altered version of a former Twitter executive’s LinkedIn headshot. The Liberty Conservative has since taken down the piece.
First Hillary, now Elon
So why are fake news producers now targeting Musk? According to Sam Jaffe, managing director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors, it could be that certain elements in the US fear Musk may have political ambitions. He cites the fake news attacks on Hilary Clinton to illustrate just what sort of damage Musk’s detractors hope to inflict.