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Fake news and celebrity endorsements under investigation by LTV

A investigation into the so-called "fake news" phenomenon and linked issues by LTV's Forbidden Methods show demonstrated typical rates of remuneration for anyone interested in developing their own "news sites" and celebrity product endorsements.

In an hour-long show, reporters gave examples of some of Latvia's most popular fake news sites - that is, websites adopting the look and feel of news sites but which in reality care little or not at all for the veracity of what they publish.

One of the leading purveyors of the kind is the VIP Clubs site owned by Raivis Raspopovs, with 37,000 followers on Facebook. However, Raspopovs told an undercover reporter he would be willing to sell the site for 10,000 euros, suggesting this was the annual profit it typically generated. 

The show also suggested other similar sites were used to give undeclared political support to various parties, though in all cases the owners denied this was the case. 

Meanwhile, the show also demonstrated the apparent willingness of Latvian celebrities to endorse products by posing with them on their personal social media accounts. TV presenter Renars Zeltinš quoted a rate of 500 euros to post an image to his Instagram account with a fictitious energy drink devised by the show called AP Run. His account, which has nearly 100,000 followers already showed several images of him posing with an ice-cream, though without overt acknowledgement he was being paid to do so.

Other celebrities such as former Eurovision contestant Aminata said that in principle they were interested in such endorsement opportunities but in her case she had a pre-existing contract with Coca Cola that prevented her promoting other soda drinks.

Meanwhile lifestyle blogger Una Ulme said she would be prepared to test the fictitious drink and give her verdict for a fee of around 300 euros. But all those interviewed said they would only provide endorsements if they actually liked the taste of the drink.

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