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Given the prominence of allegations around ‘fake news’ and disinformation on social media in the run up to the 2016 election, it’s no surprise that online content is under scrutiny as we head towards the 2020 presidential race. But that’s not stopped the popularity of parody, as a fake campaign page for Joe Biden’s 2020 run is allegedly drawing in more visitors than the real deal.
Biden’s real page, joebiden.com, is a somewhat schmaltzy site, typically expected of the ‘all American’ politician that Biden wants to be seen as. According to data revealed by the New York Times, his website was visited roughly 310,000 times between mid-March and the end of May. But during that same period, joebiden.info saw almost 400,000 visits.
That latter site labels itself “political commentary and [a] parody of Joe Biden's Presidential campaign website.” In its footer, it clarifies that “This is not Joe Biden's actual website.” Most people looking at the site should not be surprised – it’s full of clumsy lines uttered by the former Vice President, illiberal policy positions he’s taken over his career, and numerous gifs and images of Biden being a bit too hands-on with women and girls. Importantly, nothing on the site is made up, but the context could be said to be disingenuous.
The site even sells parody t-shirts.
Not everyone has spotted the parody. According to the New York Times, the site’s creator has received messages from Democrats asking for Biden to deliver speeches, or people looking to volunteer their time.
So who is the creator? A man named Patrick Mauldin, owner of Vici Media Group (Vici, meaning ‘I won’ or ‘I conquered’). Mauldin has helped create digital content for President Trump’s 2020 run, but his latest efforts have been focused not on promoting his preferred candidate, but instead sowing discord among Democrats with numerous parody pages. He has made websites for Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, but none have been so popular as joebiden.info.
It seems that while ‘Russian trolling’ has been on the minds of many Democratic Party supporters, they may need to turn their attention to efforts closer to home.