From Facebook Group Conspiracies to Astroturfing: Do Paid Protestors Exist?

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For years, rumors have circulated around the internet about the existence, and use, of paid protestors. In the wake of anti-police brutality demonstrations, detractors have claimed that the protestors involved in the global Black Lives Matter movement are hired hands and, in June 2020, these claims spread like wildfire on social media due in part to the website ProtestJobs.com. While folks on Facebook went wild with this "discovery," it’s abundantly clear that ProtestJobs.com is a satirical site.

A quick glance at the services the site offers — for $99 you can mock-request an "EZ-Riot," which, among other things, includes "5-25 masked rioters guaranteed to cause havoc and confusion" — establishes that satire in seconds. Not to mention, it boasts a very explicit disclaimer — "Real: 100,000+ Americans are dead. Fake: This website." Jean le Roux, a research associate and fact checker, told BuzzFeed News that "It's a very fine line between disinformation and an actual, established literary device." That is, in a world where fact is often decried as fake news, a satirical website is now being held up by protest opponents as "proof" of the illegitimacy of said protests. It’s all just very, very dystopian — perhaps even more so than George Orwell imagined.