TBILISI (Georgia) • Jobless and with graduation looming, a computer science student at the premier university in the nation of Georgia decided early this year that money could be made from America's voracious appetite for passionately partisan political news. He set up a website, posted gushing stories about Mrs Hillary Clinton and waited for ad sales to soar.
"I don't know why, but it did not work," said the student, Mr Beqa Latsabidze, 22, who was savvy enough to change course when he realised what did drive traffic: laudatory stories about Donald Trump that mixed real and completely fake news in a stew of anti-Clinton fervour.
Mr Latsabidze said his only incentive was to make money from Google ads by luring people off Facebook pages and onto his websites.
To gin up material, he often simply cut and pasted, sometimes massaging headlines but mostly just copying material from elsewhere.
In Tbilisi, the two-room rented apartment Mr Latsabidze shares with his younger brother is an unlikely offshore outpost of the United States' fake news industry. The two brothers, both computer experts, get help from a third young Georgian, an architect.
They say they have no keen interest in politics themselves and initially placed bets across the American political spectrum, experimenting with show business news too.
His flagship pro-Trump website, departed.co, gained remarkable traction in a crowded field in the prelude to the Nov 8 election thanks to steady menu of relentlessly pro-Trump and anti-Clinton stories. (Last Wednesday, a few hours after The New York Times met Mr Latsabidze to ask him about his activities, the site vanished, along with his Facebook page.)
"My audience likes Trump," he said. "I don't want to write bad things about Trump. If I write fake stories about Trump, I lose my audience."
Some of his Trump stories are true, some are highly slanted and others are totally false, like the one reporting that "the Mexican government announced they will close their borders to Americans in the event that Donald Trump is elected President of the United States".
Data compiled by BuzzFeed showed that the story was the third most-trafficked fake story on Facebook from May to July.
So successful was the formula that others in Georgia and other faraway lands joined in, too, including Mr Nika Kurdadze, a college acquaintance of Mr Latsabidze's who set up his own pro-Trump site, newsbreakshere.com
Mr Latsabidze said he was amazed that anyone could mistake many of the articles he posts for real news, insisting they are simply a form of infotainment that should not be taken too seriously.
"I don't call it fake news; I call it satire," he said.