This is the story about the man behind the biggest fake news operation in America.
He ran Facebook groups and websites that promoted conspiracy theories, false stories, and propaganda for two years. He had a dedicated team that included editors and writers who produced deceptive content, from outright hoaxes to propaganda with the ultimate goal of tipping the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump.
He created a network of secret self-reinforcing websites through extensive effort. He devised a strategy that got prominent personalitiesincluding Trumpto retweet misleading claims to their followers. He also fooled many Americans, including his father, to believe that fake news sources were more important than mainstream media.
He believes that governments and pundits might have given Russia too much credit when a whole system of manipulating psychology and perception was created and operated within the US.
According to a hacker, Russia played a so minor role that they were not even a blip in the radar." This was normal for politicians. However, if you tell a lie enough time, people will believe it.
He was previously known as "HackerX" and now he wants to tell the truth about who he really isand how he got there.
Note on sourcing: Ars has reviewed correspondence between the hacker, prominent entities involved in fake news production, emails sent by public figures to him, receipts for IT asset purchase receipts such as domain names, tax forms showing income received from fake-news generation firms, receipts for IT asset purchases like domain names, emails from him explaining strategy to staff and assigning tasks on a regular schedule; archived copies and tweets from webpages, forums and tweets that were produced as part of this large operation. We also spoke with unnamed sources who confirmed the hacker's claims. Ars has used the pseudonym Koala Media to refer to the fake news company he worked at, despite his request that it not be named.
Robert Willis, a fake news impresario, has decided to speak out.
Many people in the information security industry might be familiar with Rob today. He is an active member of the Sakura Samurai ethical hackers group and speaks at conferences. The Sakura Samurai have disclosed on numerous occasions vulnerabilities in government and private computer systems. Rob has been a contact on two occasions when I had questions about Sakura Samurai vulnerability writeups.
Willis, however, was not a hacker seeking an IT job in 2015. Although he had received one job offer, Willis still had to interview at the final company.
He said to me, "I was considering not showing up for the interview." "I had just committed to another company."
The last company was secretive. It refused to reveal its name or job duties until Willis arrived in person. The opacity itself was intriguing. Willis agreed to the interview.
"I arrived at the address, which was a large corporate structure. I was directed to wait downstairs until I could be collected. It was fascinating to see the secrecy. Although it may have scared some people away, I enjoy an adventure. I was not given any details about the job, other than that they were excited to find someone like myself. I have a lot of technical skills, many of which are overlapping and highly technical, from years of working in smaller private companies.
Willis was an expert in web applications, security, hacking and management, even before his ethical hacking days at Sakura Samurai. Once, Willis said that he knew how to use search engine algorithms. This allowed him to get a random phrase to No. Within 24 hours, he was able to claim the No. 1 spot on one search engine. He said that while many will claim this is/was impossible but he had the receipts and so did other credible people.
A man arrived at the interview site to collect him. They rode the elevator up to the floor, where they found a almost empty office. A woman sat beside three chairs inside. All of them sat down. The name of his company was finally revealed by his hosts: Koala Media. It felt like a staged Big Reveal.
Willis said that he was not afraid but rather excited about how crazy it was turning out. "I listened. "I was informed that there were major plans for the office where I was sitting and that they had already hired the first writers and editor to help them launch the new operation."
Willis was told by interviewers from the company that everything should be built with extreme security in mind.
If he is hired, his primary responsibility would be to quickly expand the popular Koala Media website. They needed someone with Willis’ diverse skills to do this.
The interview then took a political turn. Willis stated that the interview took a political turn when Willis revealed that they were against big corporations and big government. They claimed they had readers from both the right and left. They stated that they were all about freedom. Willis said that it sounded okay. He describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social liberal.
The interviewers then told him that he could help to stop Hillary Clinton if he worked for them.
Willis stated that he hated the establishment, Republicans and Democrats and Hillary was the target as she was as established as they get and was the only candidate almost certain to run on the main ticket for the 2016 election. "If I could choose one lesser evil, it would be the Republican Party. I moved to the new place because the Democrats had literally destroyed my home state. It felt like good revenge."
Willis claims he didn't know that the company about to hire him was extremist or would be in the future. According to Willis, the company was only "investigative" in its journalism.
He accepted the job offered by Koala.