UK Special Report: The Best and Worst of 2021

NewsGuard’s Top Ten UK ‘Misinformers’ and Top Ten ‘Trustworthy and trending’ With The Most Online Engagement

by Alex Cadier Published 12/28/2021

The year 2020 saw such a flood of false health information that it led the World Health Organization to coin a new term to describe it: “infodemic.”  In 2021, the infodemic raged on. As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began in the early months of 2021, the internet and social media feeds were flooded with false, misleading, and unproven claims that questioned the vaccines’ safety and promoted unproven cures. More recently, false claims about the German federal election and European politics also proliferated, while hoaxes about the U.S presidential election continued to be pushed by U.S. and European websites alike.

With 2021 drawing to a close, NewsGuard has compiled Top 10 lists highlighting some of the most influential UK peddlers of online misinformation identified by our analysts this year, as well as the top responsible sites that met all nine of NewsGuard’s transparency and reliability criteria.

Misinformers

In the list below, a prime “Misinformer” is DailyExpose.uk. Launched in November 2020,  this anonymously run website has promoted multiple false and unsubstantiated claims about the COVID-19 pandemic. The site’s domain was registered on Nov 18, 2020, and, after only 13 months, it regularly receives more engagement than reputable sources of health information. For example, from Nov 22, 2021to Dec 22, 2021, DailyExpose.uk received 57.6 percent more engagement than BMJ.com, the British Medical Journal’s website, according to NewsWhip, a social-media analytics company.

DailyExpose.uk, which changed its URL from DailyExpose.co.uk in October 2021, fails all but one of NewsGuard’s nine criteria.

NewsGuard’s year-end lists also spotlight UK publications, big and small, that are practicing responsible journalism in a transparent manner.

To produce these lists, NewsGuard relied on our global ratings of more than 7,200 news and information sites, as well as engagement data NewsGuard provided by NewsWhip.

Trustworthy and Trending

Sites that received a perfect 100 NewsGuard score also garnered significant engagement in 2021. These include national publications such as TheGuardian.com and TheTimes.co.uk and even small specialist and volunteer-run sites, such as UKDefenceJournal.org.uk.

Local news outlets in the UK, such as ManchesterEveningNews.co.uk and LiverpoolEcho.co.uk,  also feature heavily in NewsGuard’s top ten “Trustworthy and trending” sites for 2021, illustrating both their dedication to responsible journalism and their ability to generate high engagement.

The Ten Most Influential Misinformers

NewsGuard awards websites a score from 0 to 100, depending on how many of NewsGuard’s nine credibility and transparency criteria (weighted in order of importance) the site meets. A site scoring below a 60 earns a Red, or generally unreliable, rating. In this list, we have identified the least credible sites — meaning those that fail NewsGuard’s criteria for repeatedly sharing false content — that garnered the most social media engagement in 2021, starting with the most widely shared site at number one. These websites have a record of routinely publishing falsehoods and, in most cases, refusing to disclose to readers who owns the site or who creates its content.

 

  • UnityNewsNetwork.co.uk
    A website providing coverage of UK news and politics from a conservative, pro-Brexit perspective. The site has published inaccurate information about COVID-19 and the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
  • ConservativeWoman.co.uk
    A news commentary site that has published false information about the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
  • DailyExpose.uk and DailyExpose.co.uk
    This website that has repeatedly published false and misleading claims about the COVID-19 pandemic and COVID-19 vaccines. (As noted above, the site changed its URL in the course of the year.)
  • UKColumn.org
    The website for an anti-establishment political pamphlet published in Devon, England. The site has posted false and misleading health information, including about COVID-19.
  • BritanniaNews.co.uk and BreakingBrexitnews.blog
    An anonymously owned, conservative news and commentary website that has published false information about the 2020 U.S. election and does not disclose its political orientation. The site previously used the BreakingBrexitnews.blog URL, before merging with and redirecting to BritanniaNews.co.uk in March 2020.
  • TheWhiteRose.uk
    The website of a self-described “peaceful resistance group” in the UK that opposed restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has promoted false claims about COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Educateinspirechange.org
    A website publishing “inspirational” and health articles, which has published false and unsubstantiated medical claims.
  • EnergyTherapy.biz
    A website run by two self-described “energy healing” practitioners that promotes unsubstantiated health claims, including about COVID-19.

Other noteworthy UK sites that fail NewsGuard’s criteria for not repeatedly publishing false content include DavidIcke.com, a website named after former British football player David Icke that repeatedly publishes conspiracy theories, including Icke’s claim that the world is under the control of shape-shifting aliens, as well as PressTV.com, a news network that repeatedly publishes false information and is funded by the Iranian government.

The Ten top “Trustworthy and trending” sites

Among the approximately 27 percent of British sites that earned a perfect 100 score from NewsGuard, these 10 received the most social media engagement in 2021. They are listed by engagement, with the most widely shared at number one. This list includes a wide range of sites, including a national newspaper, a weekly magazine, and three local sites.

  • TheGuardian.com
    The website of The Guardian, a daily newspaper based in London known for its left-of-center point of view and investigations into governments, politicians, and companies around the world.
  • Independent.co.uk
    The website for The Independent, an online newspaper originally founded as a neutral counterbalance to the highly opinionated UK press.
  • ManchesterEveningnews.co.uk
    The website of the Manchester Evening News, a daily newspaper covering news in and around Manchester, England.
  • LiverpoolEcho.co.uk
    The website of the Liverpool Echo, a daily newspaper providing coverage of Liverpool and Merseyside in the North of England.
  • BirminghamMail.co.uk
    The website of the Birmingham Mail, a tabloid newspaper covering Birmingham, England, and the Black Country and West Midlands regions.
  • WalesOnline.co.uk
    The website for the Western Mail and the South Wales Echo, two national newspapers based in Cardiff, Wales.
  • TheLondonEconomic.com
    A London-based liberal website with the stated mission of challenging conservative influences on the mainstream media.
  • TheTimes.co.uk
    The website of The Times, one of Britain’s oldest and most influential newspapers, known for the breadth of its reporting and commentary. The site includes content from its sister paper, The Sunday Times.
  • TheNational.scot
    The website of The National, founded in 2014 as a daily newspaper to support Scottish Independence.
  • ChronicleLive.co.uk
    The website for The Chronicle and The Journal, two daily newspapers based in Newcastle that cover North East England.

Other noteworthy sites which received a perfect 100 NewsGuard score include Spectator.co.uk, the site for the Spectator magazine, the oldest continuously published weekly in the English language, and UKDefenceJournal.org, a volunteer-run site covering defense industry news in the United Kingdom.