Notice: It would seem the veracity of the original source of this story, an article at Ars Technica, has been called into question. Please bear this in mind as we investigate further.
A man who helped design and run a pro-Trump fake news empire during the 2016 presidential campaign now regrets his actions -- and he tells Ars Technica that he wants to make amends.
The hacker in question is named Robert Willis and he tells Ars Technica that he was hired in 2015 by a company called Koala Media whose stated goal was denying Hillary Clinton the presidency.
While working at the company he created a network of fake news websites that all syndicated one another's content and then spammed stories out to Facebook.
They quickly found that Trump supporters on Facebook were highly engaged and would share any pro-Trump, anti-Clinton articles they wrote, no matter how outlandish.
"Pieces that ran... claimed, among other things, that Clinton had plans to 'criminalize' gun owners, to kill the free press, to forcefully 'drug' conservatives, to vaccinate people against their wills, to euthanize some adults, and to ban the US flag," notes Ars Technica.
Willis quit the company in 2017, and Koala Media is now a shell of its former self after having been thoroughly banned from Facebook.
That said, Willis says he sees the same tactics that worked to elect Trump now being used to sow doubt about the novel coronavirus vaccines.
"COVID has shown me the deadly side of fake news and anti-vaccination people," Willis explains. "After multiple conversations with my father, who refuses to wear a mask or get vaccinated, I was getting very concerned. I asked him what sites he would read the conspiracy-based things on, and he mentioned the website that ran the network I had built the machine on."