Hackers. [Shutterstock]

“As they stole stories from real newspapers, these sites baffled scientists, activists, and journalists. Until now.”

“A network of dozens of fake local news sites has been stealing content from major media organizations and flooding Google News and Alerts results for years,” says Craig Silverman. “I tracked the scheme back to a former NASDAQ and Thomson Reuters employee.”

From the Buzzfeed News report:

A BuzzFeed News investigation has identified a network of roughly 100 sites dating back to at least 2015 that have been plagiarizing stories from major news organizations, masquerading as local news and financial outlets, and manipulating Google News and search results to earn money through ads, through financial email subscriptions, or by referring people to dubious investments.

Domain registration records and other information, including confirmation from a business partner, show that the network is run by Matt McGorty. His brother Tim, who also worked in the financial information industry, is linked to the network via domain registrations, but his role is unclear. The McGortys did not respond to multiple interview requests and a detailed set of questions.

And here’s where the story gets super shady and interesting, a few grafs down (gotta read the whole thing):

Tim McGorty is linked to the operation via the [email protected] email address, which appeared in the domain registration records for dozens of the sites. Tim operates a Facebook profile named Ma Gao Ti that is almost exclusively friends with members of the McGorty family.

Both brothers, who live in North Carolina, began working for NASDAQ in 2013 after being employed by Thomson Reuters, according to their LinkedIn profiles. In 2016, the Boston Globe reported that Matt “works for NASDAQ, updating financial websites.” A NASDAQ spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the brothers worked for a subsidiary that is now an independent company called Interdo. The company, which was previously called West, offers a suite of digital media products and services, including website and content development. Interdo declined to comment on whether Matt McGorty is a current employee. Tim currently runs a web design and video business.

The earliest McGorty site identified by BuzzFeed News was oraclebeacon.com, active in 2015, according to the Wayback Machine.

Read the whole investigation:

These Fake Local News Sites Have Confused People For Years. We Found Out Who Created Them.

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