NMA Condemns Fake News Sites Which Exploit Real Journalism
The News Media Association has said that fake news websites which scrape and republish content from real journalistic outlets to gain advertising revenue pose a direct threat to journalism and should be stopped.
Several examples of fake news websites targeting genuine local news websites in a systematic way by scraping and republishing content have surfaced in recent months.
KentOnline reported today how the Kent Chronicle website lifted stories in their entirety from other professional news-gathering organisations, including KentOnline, and attributed to “reporters” either faked or based on genuine journalists whose pictures could be found online.
Before it was taken down, the website was sold to potential advertisers as the county’s “third largest online news publication.”
Matt Aspinall, head of publisher services at NLA media access, told KentOnline that bogus news websites such as the Kent Chronicle are on the rise and not going away any time soon,.
NLA media access’s copyright infringement service Text Tracker identifies when clients’ articles or websites have been lifted or cloned and then NLA works to get it taken down.
Launched in 2015, Text Tracker now have 30 clients, mostly national newspapers, but more regional publishers have joined recently.
In 2020 NLA removed about 20,000 articles across 700 websites and Mr Aspinall suspects there will be more this year.
Speaking about why these sites need to be taken down he said: “It’s stopping others monetising your work, making sure you’re not losing out on ad revenue.”
There is also the frustration when reporters work extremely hard on a story, only for it to be taken and attributed to someone else. The methods and presentation fake sites are becoming more sophisticated, he says.
He said: “That’s the real problem, it isn’t obvious, that’s why people share these sites. Let’s say it’s called ‘Kent News Today’ or something, for someone who doesn’t follow the news they might see an article and think that’s legitimate.”
Some people think if they change an article ever so slightly, perhaps hoping they can get away with taking the story.
“They cynically undermine the efforts of real journalists who are working to keep the public informed during a time of national crisis…”
Mr Aspinall said: “I have been working with a couple of major newspapers recently and what they’re finding is their article has been changed every so slightly and the person doing it thinks they aren’t infringing copyright because they are changing it.”
He says even if the article is from a regional site, that won’t stop someone taking it, as they are keen to get hits from whatever source.
The News Media Association said: “Fake news sites which invest nothing in real journalism yet lift and seek to monetise the content of genuine news media outlets have no place in our democratic society. They cynically undermine the efforts of real journalists who are working to keep the public informed during a time of national crisis.
“Sadly, in recent months we have seen several examples of these websites targeting genuine local news websites in a systematic way. They pose a direct threat to journalism and should be stopped.”