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Fake news, dangerous conspiracy theories and disinformation

Journalism campaign group Hacked Off finds 55 such stories in Britain's most-read newspaper since the pandemic began

NEWSPAPERS published about 55 fake news stories containing dangerous conspiracy theories and disinformation about Covid-19 last year, a report by journalism campaign group Hacked Off revealed today.

Tabloid newspaper the Express was the most frequent offender, with 13 fake news reports, followed by the Sun with 11. 

Other misinformation spreaders were the Telegraph, Times, Mirror, Mail Online, Daily Star and Metro. 

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) failed to uphold a complaint on any of the stories included in the report, the group said.

Hacked Off policy director Nathan Sparkes said: “Whether false information about the severity of the virus, fictitious stories about miracle cures, or simple conspiracy theories, some newspapers have spewed out the same discredited and dangerous ‘fake news’ which has appeared on social media platforms.

“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a lack of regard for accuracy and proper editorial review at many of Britain’s most-read newspapers, with titles frequently churning out stories about coronavirus which were seriously and recklessly inaccurate, misleading, or untrue.”

Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan said that responsible reporting is an “invaluable tool in highlighting the realities of both front-line NHS conditions and public safety information during a pandemic.

“However, knowingly spreading dangerous misinformation or publishing damaging reports without proper fact-checking – as a minority have done – undermines public-health efforts and is frankly insulting to thousands of front-line healthcare staff who are currently working so very hard.

“This lazy journalism needs to stop – it does real damage to the fight against the biggest health crisis we have seen in more than a century.”

Ipso was approached for comment.

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