PANTS ON FIRE
Liker, a Facebook Alternative for Liberals, Is Hive of False Claims About Trump
The founder of Facebook’s Occupy Democrats page has launched a new social-media front in the battle against President Trump.
In the world of the anti-Trump Facebook #Resistance, no one has a bigger soapbox than Omar Rivero, the founder of the Occupy Democrats Facebook page.
Along with his brother Rafael, Rivero has amassed 7 million followers and an estimated six figures in monthly ad revenue for the page with viral-ready videos and infographics. In 2017, the Miami New Times noted that Occupy Democrats has more influence on Facebook “than virtually any other news source in America.”
But Rivero’s success has also brought attention to Occupy Democrats’ relaxed attitude toward the truth. Occupy Democrats has repeatedly been dinged by fact-checking sites for posting exaggerated or invented news stories, earning several “pants on fire” ratings from PolitiFact and amassing a number of mentions on hoax-debunking site Snopes. Brooke Binkowski, a journalist who covered Occupy Democrats as the managing editor of Snopes, told The Daily Beast that the page’s headlines were often “extremely misleading.”
Now, Rivero wants to take the diehard liberals from Occupy Democrats—and anyone else he can get—onto a social network of his own. In early August, Rivero quietly launched Liker, an upstart that looks very similar to Facebook, if Facebook was only about politics. Like Occupy Democrats, though, Liker has quickly filled with fake information about Trump.
Rivero describes Liker as the answer for Facebook users who feel that their own posts on Facebook are being ignored in favor of posts from popular political-themed pages. In return, Liker offers an obsessive focus on engagement—Liker users are numerically ranked according to the likes they’ve accumulated, with top users receiving gold or silver “stars.”
Rivero insists that recent Facebook algorithm changes that cut traffic to political pages aren’t behind his push to create his own social network, which he said he’s been working on for years.
“The answer to that is a flat no,” Rivero said.
In the site’s welcome video, Liker is described as a social network free of “meaningless nonsense,” specifically citing cat pictures as the kind of social media chum you won’t find on the site. Instead, the ideal Liker post is portrayed in the video as a cartoon of Trump with the caption “Impeachment is the only option,” posted by user “Danny Do-Gooder.”
Liker’s emphasis on making it to the top of its heap—and the audience ported over from liberal Facebook pages—has turned it into a hive for false claims about Trump, many of them taken from the Occupy Democrats Facebook page.
On Tuesday, one of the top Liker posts claimed that Trump designated no money for Puerto Rico disaster relief—a falsehood. Another popular post was an unproven claim that Trump was banned from Barbara Bush’s funeral. A third top post claimed that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos registered a yacht called Seaquest in the Cayman Islands to avoid taxes, a claim Snopes rates as “mostly false.”
Rivero initially tried to avoid giving his name as Liker’s owner. After The Daily Beast asked the network for comment, Rivero called back but refused to reveal his name—although both public records and caller ID tied Rivero to the site. Rivero eventually called back and acknowledged that he’s behind Liker.
“I’m kind of a public personality and I don’t want media attention just yet for political reasons,” Rivero said.
While bogus anti-Trump posts thrive with Liker’s #Resistance-minded user base, Rivero said he’s not about to step in and decide what’s real or fake.
“Liker is not in the business of arbitrating what is good content or not,” Rivero told The Daily Beast. “The people vote, and they vote with their likes.”