CA Water District Fools Google

Is this the future of PR? The Central Basin Municipal Water District in southern California paid a publicist $200,000 to write adulatory articles about the district’s decisions and post them on a fake news website called the News Hawks Review. Several of the stories even featured interviews with public officials who didn’t realize they were speaking to a fictitious news organization. The PR stunt was enough to fool Google News, which mixed the articles in with legitimate publications. The result? People who Googled Central Basin found propaganda passed off as news. Officials said they had seen a huge spike in traffic to the district’s website. District board members have been the subject of negative press over the past year during a corruption investigation by Los Angeles prosecutors.