A Sri Lankan content farm ran the most viewed US Facebook page
Read to the end for a TikTok you need to watch at least 25 seconds of
A Facebook Mystery (Mostly) Answered
Last week, I wrote about the weirdness surrounding Facebook’s newest Widely Viewed Content Report. The platform included the top 20 most-viewed pages in America between October 1, 2021, to December 31, 2021, but, sitting at number one was a dead link. And Facebook won’t say why that page was removed other than the obligatory boilerplate that it was removed “for violating Community Standards.” In fact, it took some reverse engineering to even figure out what the page was called. But thanks to Google’s cache, we know that it was called That ain’t right and it was, basically, a really crappy meme page. It also seemed to be running a TikTok page, that it was sharing videos from. That’s a new growth hack for a lot of Facebook pages. According to the Widely Viewed Content Report, TikTok is the second-most popular domain on Facebook in the US right now behind YouTube.
After I wrote about That ain’t right, I was contacted by Tag Brum, a Brooklyn-based Facebook page admin, who said he had seen That ain’t right before it went down. According to Brum, “They started clickbaiting users with sexy pictures of random women in their [Facebook] stories. Not long ago after they were gone.” Brum also told me that the page was regularly promoting a URL called virallk.com, which it still active. And virallk.com gives us a better picture of exactly what That ain’t right was up to.
The virallk.com site is your typical viral garbage site. It hasn’t updated in a month and its content includes posts like “Then & Now: 10 Awkward Female Child Stars Who Grew Up to Be Gorgeous,” “9 Photography Tips How To Make Other People Think You Have A Girlfriend On Valentine’s Day,” and “Train your mind. Can you Spot The RABBIT In This Picture?” You get the idea. But the site links to a Facebook page that’s still active called Be Dirty, which mainly posts horny boomer memes. Be Dirty also shares a lot of content from other pages, including a related page called *drumroll please* That Ain’t Right, which seems like older version of the page that Facebook eventually took down. From what I can tell, virallk.com and the pages it’s associated with are managed by a Sri Lankan content farm.
At the bottom of the virallk.com homepage, it says that it’s run by something called “Publication Hub”. On linkedIn, an account called “Thoughts Hub” lists itself as an employee of “Publication Hub” and includes virallk.com as its official website. And Thoughts Hub has a Facebook page, which also links back to virallk.com. A lot of content farms have this kind of endless link rot. Thoughts Hub’s page says it’s owned by an LLC called THE PUBLICATION HUB.LLC, run out of North Carolina, which may be true, but all of their pages are run out of Sri Lanka. And this lines up with what was happening on That ain’t right.
Facebook recently added a new feature that shows where a page’s content is being posted from. Brum told me that a lot of That ain’t right’s content was being posted from Sri Lanka and it also officially listed page managers in the US and Sri Lanka.
So let’s put it all together: That ain’t right was a Facebook page that mainly posted engagement bait posts like a picture of a potato with the caption “pick three toppings,” designed to generate thousands of comments. Which increased its posts’ rank in Facebook’s News Feed. It was also apparently posting softcore pornography in its Stories, sharing videos from an associated That ain’t right TikTok page, and linking out to a viral content farm called virallk.com. That content farm seems to be completely run out of Sri Lanka and it currently promotes hundreds of other low-value Facebook and Instagram pages. And That ain’t right, which, again, is at least partially run by a Sri Lankan content farm, became the most widely viewed Facebook page in America between October 2021, to December 2021, before it was taken down by Facebook, most likely because of the softcore pornography it was sharing.
Great stuff! Very normal. If you’re looking for more about the current state of Facebook, I have more of my interview with Brum at the bottom of today’s newsletter.
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It Happened Again
On Monday, I wrote about the state of the info war around the Ukrainian invasion. One of the newer developments on English-speaking social media is that users are becoming more vocal about the far-right radicalization within the Ukrainian military. I said that the bulk of the reason this narrative was spreading was not because of some kind of a Russian PsyOp, but because of wildly clumsy media coverage from English-speaking media. There was some confusion in the comments about what I meant by this, so I want to be clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reporting about the presence of Ukrainian fascists amid the invasion and I think it’s actually a really important story to tell, adding crucial nuance to the crisis. I do not, however, think it’s ok to stick a Ukrainian neo-Nazi on TV and let them be the spokesperson for the country, in the same way that I wouldn’t want Richard Spencer to be interviewed by international media if a similar crisis were happening in the US.
Anyways, it happened again and, this time, in a much worse way.
In the above tweet, which was posted by the official NATO Twitter account, users quickly noticed that in the top left photo, the woman soldier was wearing a Sonnenrad neo-Nazi patch. You can see a zoom in here. NATO has deleted the tweet, but not before it was noticed by English-speaking far-right influencers like Jack Posobiec. But wait, it gets worse. NATO wasn’t the only account to promote fascist iconography in their pro-Ukraine International Women’s Day tweet. Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also did it.
The picture on the bottom right features another woman wearing a Sonnenrad. The photo has been bouncing around the internet since at least 2017, according to factchecking organization Logically.ai. It seems likely that Ukraine’s MFA found it on Google and dropped it in their tweet. That particular picture has been going viral lately, with users claiming it was taken during the invasion.
The reason this stuff is important to point out as it happens like this is because we’re seeing how these narratives form in real time. We’re at a weird moment with the American right wing in regards to the invasion of Ukraine because they haven’t settled on a central take on it yet. Many younger conservatives are mostly pro-Putin, staunchly anti-NATO, and completely against any kind of foreign intervention, while older Republicans still want to wage forever wars. So the fact that both NATO and Ukraine’s MFA have, I’m going to assume, accidentally promoted a fascist Ukrainian soldiers, in International Women’s Day tweets no less, is a real easy gift to the American right who desperate for a way to side with Putin in all this.
A Good Evergreen Tweet
An Extremely Bad NFT Line
This was sent to me by a reader named Andy and I gotta say, I absolutely hate this with my entire being. It’s an NFT line called Pooping Ladies. It claims that “each lady is completely hand-drawn and unique,” but they are absolutely definitely stolen photographs that have been put in a Photoshop filter.
But if you search “pooping ladies NFT” on Twitter (which is, admittedly, a very risky search), you’ll see that someone has made a ton of sock puppet accounts to promote this project and are using those sock puppets to DM crypto influencers, offering to pay them to promote it. It’s all extremely weird and awful, but, hopefully, a sign that the NFT fad is finally, unequivocally, on its deathbed.
One More Bad NFT Thing
Limewire, the application I used during that awkward moment in between Kazaa and Bit Torrent, is back! But now it’s going to be an NFT marketplace. The Recording Industry Association of America successfully sued it into oblivion in 2010 but now it’s rebranding as a place to buy and sell NFTs.
The company was bought by two brothers from Australia and one of them told CNBC, “We’ve obviously got this great mainstream brand that everybody’s nostalgic about... We thought we needed to build a real mainstream user experience as well.” Ah, yes, that’s what everyone remembers about Limewire: Spending money for content.
The fact that the Limewire brand is owned by new people makes this make a lot more sense. It has a new slick (boring) Web3 redesign and there’s a waiting list if you really want to get on this thing.
I described the entirety of Web3 as “a mid-life crisis” a couple weeks back and I really can’t think of anything more mid-life crisis-y for the internet than resurrecting one of the biggest brands of the piracy age and turning it into a place to spend fake money on JPGs. Excited to proudly say in a few weeks that I bought my pooping lady NFT on Limewire!
A 4chan User Posts A Picture Of Their Soup
In case you didn’t know, 4chan has a cooking board called /ck/. It’s like the other parts of 4chan, but they stay mostly focused on food. In a recent thread titled, “What are YOU eating right now?!” a user shared the above photo of their “collinflower cheese soup”. Many users were quick to point out that it is absolutely a picture of a soup with broccoli in it. But the OP couldn’t be convinced otherwire and the argument ended up throwing off the entire thread, as users became more and more violently angry that the OP wouldn’t admit that they were eating broccoli.
Alvin And The Chipmunks Make A Stoner Rock Album
This was shared by podcaster Jeff Blehar. It’s a 1980’s Alvin and the Chipmunks covers album that’s been slowed down to 16 speed. The result is an extremely grimy and droning goth rock album that almost has doom metal vibes to parts of it. It’s great!
Some Extremely Meta And NSFW Reddit Drama
This was sent to me last night by Garbage Day Discord user lakshata, who was nice enough to @ me about this while I was eating dinner. Thank you.
A couple weeks ago, a user named u/AlmondHaze posted on Reddit’s Am I The Asshole subreddit, asking, “AITA for not attending my sister's wedding since my husband is not invited?” The post has been deleted, but all the comments are still there. You can also read a saved version of the post on r/AmITheDevil, which is a subreddit used to archive the worst people on AITA (I love it).
The gist of u/AlmondHaze’s post was about whether she was the asshole or not for helping her husband lie about a humiliation kink he has where he pees his pants in public. The husband wasn’t invited to a wedding because, according to u/AlmondHaze, her family is sick of her husband peeing his pants at family functions. Understandable, tbh. The whole post is completely nuts and was deleted because mods decided it wasn’t true. Here’s where things get kind of interesting, though.
Several commenters began to wonder if the entire post wasn’t part of a wider humiliation kink itself. Which led to users, over on Tumblr, to start claiming that u/AlmondHaze has a history of making up humiliating stories for advice subreddits, which they share to get off on. But I actually couldn’t find any solid evidence that this is true. u/AlmondHaze’s user history is basically just this one post.
Either way, it’s an intriguing idea! A fetish for getting yelled at online. In fact, I’ve wondered if this is the case for more than a few highly-paid center-right columnists who seem to constantly get dunked on by Twitter users.
My internet culture collective, Digital Void, is throwing a live event in Washington, DC, on March 23! We’ve got some great guests like Jordan Uhl, podcaster Bridget Todd, reporter Ellie Hall, and The Intercept’s D.C. Bureau Chief Ryan Grim.
Some Stray Links
BONUS: What It’s Like Being A Facebook Creator
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As I wrote above, I spent some time over the last week talking to Tag Brum, he runs a fairly large-sized Facebook page and I was curious what that was like these days. It’s weird that Facebook is still such a large website, full of content made by users, and, yet, we don’t really think about Facebook publishers the same way we think about YouTubers or Twitch streamers or even Twitter users. Here’s what it’s like inside a dying platform.