Depressingly, the term ‘fake news’ has become incredibly pervasive this year after being popularised by Donald Trump – himself one of the leading purveyors of false stories – to discredit the media and his enemies.
And we’ve also seen how this ‘fake news’ trend has been used to undermine legitimate news stories like CNN’s report on the Libyan slave trade. It’s gotten so bad that the BBC is even launching a new scheme to teach children how to spot bullshit stories.
And now research from LogicAlly has uncovered the top 10 British ‘fake news’ stories of 2017; the top four stories alone generated more than 100,000 shares and one million impressions.
How many did you fall for?
10. Brighton council’s inhumane treatment of homeless people
In January, the Brighton Argus reported that a council was “branded inhumane after rough sleepers were kicked out of their tents on New Year’s Day”. Their story claimed that a group of homeless people had been thrown out their tents into the freezing weather.
But the publication later issued a clarification on their website saying: “no one was evicted from their tent on New Year’s Day and the council does not evict people at short notice or threaten to dispose of their belongings. This correction has been published following a complaint upheld by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.”
9. The Sun’s cannibal killer story
In March, The Sun published a lurid story about Matthew Williams – who killed 22-year-old Cerys Yemm in 2014 in South Wales – in which they labelled him a ‘cannibal’. However, press watchdog IPSO later upheld a complaint against the paper and forced them to print the following correction: “In two articles about the inquests of Matthew Williams and Cerys Yemm, published in March and April of this year, we used the word ‘cannibal’ when describing Mr Williams. We should have made clear that this descriptor was based on evidence given by a witness to the attack that Mr Williams had been ‘eating’ Ms Yemm’s face, and we also should have noted that while the inquest heard that Mr Williams had bitten Ms Yemm, it did not find that he had ‘eaten’ her.”
8. 100,000 people face a Christmas without universal benefit
The BBC was forced to apologise after publishing an incorrect report about the number of people who would be affected by the change in the benefits system over Christmas.
Paul Lewis from Radio 4’s Money Box initially claimed that 100,000 people could receive less (or zero) Universal Credit during the festive season but later accepted he had made an error. He clarified: “Some people will undoubtedly receive less Universal Credit over Christmas and New Year, but by no means all of them.”
7. Lorry attack and gunshots at Oxford Circus
Last month, panic erupted at Oxford Circus after a fight broke out on a platform sending commuters rushing out of the station, which in turn ignited hundreds of frenzied posts on social media about a possible terror attack. And in the fast-paced rush to produce quick news content, the MailOnline found a tweet from Dan Smallbone about “a lorry stopped on the pavement in Oxford Street, police all around it and blood on the floor.”
Unfortunately, that tweet was from ten days before about a separate incident involving a fallen window cleaner. The MailOnline later corrected their story and removed the social media post.
6. US Senator John McCain’s direct links to the London Bridge attack
After the heinous attack on London Bridge and Borough Market in June, right-wing ‘fake news’ sites in the US churned out made-up stories linking one of the attackers, Rachid Redouane, to Senator John McCain. Websites like Global Politics Now and Freedom Daily claimed that Redouane had once fought in the Free Syrian Army, an anti-Assad coalition support by McCain, and that the senator was therefore complicit or even shared blame for the attack.
In fact, while McCain has indeed been a vocal supporter of the FSA, Redouane is only reported to have fought in Libya with the militia Liwa al Ummah, which in 2012 aligned itself with the anti-Assad group.
More than likely these right-wing sites spread lies about McCain because he has been one of the most vocal Republican critics of President Trump and famously thwarted his plans to repeal Obamacare.
5. Angela Merkel calls for German-led EU army
At the beginning of the year, the Express ran a breathless story with the headline: “UK and USA are WEAK: Angela Merkel calls for German-led EU ARMY to defend Europe.” Playing into the worst fears of Brexit voters, the story included no direct quotes to back up the story.
And in a later correction they said: “The original headline did not quote Chancellor Merkel directly and was potentially open to misinterpretation… The reference in the headline to any combined European force being ‘German-led’ was not drawn from the Chancellor’s speech.
“In addition we have been asked to clarify that Angela Merkel did not state that the ‘UK and USA are Weak’, rather the original headline was intended to convey the declining military relationship between the US, UK and Europe.”
4. Most Remainers back a hard Brexit
As Britain continues to grapple with the self-imposed punishment also known as Brexit, a survey was released earlier this year apparently claiming that most people who voted Remain are now in favour of a hard Brexit. The story was picked up widely by the right-wing press.
However, it was later revealed that the polling size of the study was much smaller than first stated and therefore the conclusions were nowhere near as clear-cut.
3. Girl who went missing in the aftermath of the Manchester Attack
In what has become a particularly disturbing modern trend, a photo of a girl murdered in 2013 was circulated on social media in a fake list of missing people after the bombing in Manchester. The mother of Jayden Parkinson, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend four years ago, said how unhappy she was that her daughter’s image was being spread after the attack.
“She was killed almost four years ago not last night, not happy,” Samantha Shrewsbury tweeted. “Why is my MURDERED daughter’s picture being used in a collage of pictures of children missing dead after last night terror attack?”
2. Landmark climate change paper exaggerated warming
In February, the Mail on Sunday published a story claiming that “world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data”. The story was shared more than 186,000 times and attracted thousands of comments. But IPSO upheld a complaint against the paper and ordered them to run a very lengthy clarification.
1. Sadiq Khan gets reprimanded by the Queen for his comments on Trump
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been a very effective thorn in the side of US President Donald Trump, especially over his outrageous Muslim travel ban. And after a public spat earlier this year, Khan said Trump should not have been invited to the UK.
Fake news sites quickly concocted a story claiming that the Queen had smacked down the London Mayor, but in truth she had nothing to do with Theresa May’s invitation to Donald Trump and has made no public comments on the matter. And fact-checking website Snopes said the story was “misleading” and “gets important details wrong”.
So how many did you fall for this year? Let us know below: