(Looking for the US version of this report? Click here.)
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, misinformation about the war flooded UK news sites and social media feeds, including claims that sought to justify the war, to cover for Russia’s atrocities, and to discredit Ukraine.
The scourge of misinformation about the Russian-Ukraine war pushed the UK and other western governments to ban Russia’s state-run propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik. Nevertheless, over the course of 2022, NewsGuard identified 160 English-language news sites, including UK sites, spreading myths about the war on its Russia-Ukraine Disinformation Tracking Center.
Beyond Ukraine, misinformation about COVID-19 and the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines persisted in 2022, as the omicron variant caused new cases to soar. UK news sites also disseminated false claims about the origins of Mpox (also known as Monkeypox), the virus that spread around the world in the spring.
With 2022 drawing to a close, NewsGuard has compiled lists highlighting some of the most influential UK peddlers of misinformation online, as well as the top sites that met all nine of NewsGuard’s transparency and reliability criteria for the entirety of 2022.
To produce these lists, NewsGuard relied on its global ratings of more than 8,500 news and information sites, as well as engagement data provided by NewsWhip, a social media monitoring company.
The site at the top of NewsGuard’s list of “Misinformers” is The Expose (formerly known as Daily Expose), an anonymously-run website that has promoted false and unsubstantiated claims about multiple topics, including the Russia-Ukraine war. For example, a March 2022 article advanced the Russian government’s widely debunked narrative that the U.S. funded bioweapons labs in Ukraine.
NewsGuard’s second year-end list offers hope. Sites that received a perfect 100 NewsGuard score for the entire year and garnered significant engagement include regional news outlet ManchesterEveningNews.co.uk, national publications such as TheGuardian.co.uk, and the volunteer-run site UKDefenceJournal.org.uk, which covers military issues.
The Five Most Trafficked 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. In this list, we have identified five of the least credible sites — meaning those that fail NewsGuard’s criteria for repeatedly sharing false content — that garnered the most social media engagement in 2022, starting with the most widely shared site at number one. These websites have a record of routinely publishing falsehoods and, in most cases, failing to disclose to readers who owns the site and who produces its content.
The five sites named here have published false information about COVID-19, and all except one have published misinformation about the Russia-Ukraine war. (Other sites that fail NewsGuard’s criteria for sharing false content received limited or no social media engagement, or are not tracked by NewsWhip.)
NewsGuard contacted each of these sites in December seeking comment on their credibility and transparency practices, and their responses, if received, are included below.
Expose-News.com: A website that has published false or misleading claims about the COVID-19 pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines and the Russia-Ukraine war.
For example, a June 2022 Expose-News.com story falsely claimed that the Ukrainian Red Cross kept medical data on more than 1,000 children with “healthy organs”, in an article titled “Has the Red Cross Been Harvesting Children’s Organs in NATO’s Ukraine?” (The answer is no.)
ConservativeWoman.co.uk: A conservative British commentary site that has published false information about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war and the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
For example, a September 2022 ConservativeWoman.co.uk article misrepresented the results of a study published in the The New England Journal of Medicine, to claim in its headline “Covid vaccine destroys children’s natural immunity, study shows.”
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, the Ukraine war and the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
For example, in a January 2022 opinion article, UnityNewsNetwork.co.uk quoted Idaho physician Dr. Ryan Cole, stating “Since January 1, in the laboratory, I’m seeing a 20-times increase of endometrial cancers over what I see on an annual basis.” There is no support for this claim. Asked about the site’s credibility and transparency practices, Unity News Network told NewsGuard in a December 2022 email that “NewsGuard is part of the globalist regime’s attempts to silence alt media and fundamentally the truth. The lower the rating we get from Newsguard the happier we will be!”
UKColumn.org: A website that has published false and misleading claims and conspiracy theories, including about COVID-19, vaccines, and the Russia-Ukraine war.
For example, in a May 2022 article titled “Does Ukraine Need To Be Denazified?” UK Column stated that “‘genocide’ against Russian-speaking Ukrainians seems a fair description of the war in the Donbas.” The article omitted the fact that the International Criminal Court, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe have all said they have found no evidence of genocide in Donbas.
FreedomPlatform.tv: A UK-based website that has produced videos and interviews promoting false claims about the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, during a September 2022 interview with anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Kennedy falsely claimed that “if you take the vaccine, you’re 21 percent more likely to die over six months than people who don’t, of all causes.” The interviewer, Brian Rose, did not challenge Kennedy’s claim.
Trustworthy and trending sites
Among the approximately 29 percent of British sites that earned a perfect 100 score from NewsGuard, these 10 received the most social media engagement in 2022. They are listed by engagement, with the most widely shared at number one. This list includes a wide range of sites, including national newspapers, local news sites and even a specialist, volunteer-run site.
- ManchesterEveningNews.co.uk: The website of the Manchester Evening News, a daily newspaper covering news in and around Manchester, England.
- Independent.co.uk: The website for The Independent, an online newspaper originally founded as a neutral counterbalance to the highly opinionated UK press.
- TheGuardian.com: The website of The Guardian, a daily newspaper based in London known for its left-of-centre point of view and investigations into governments, politicians, and companies around the world.
- 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.
- ChronicleLive.co.uk: The website for The Chronicle and The Journal, two daily newspapers based in Newcastle that cover North East England.
- WalesOnline.co.uk: The website for the Western Mail and the South Wales Echo, two national newspapers based in Cardiff, Wales.
- MyLondon.news: A website providing coverage of London, with a focus on South and West London.
- BelfastLive.co.uk: A website providing coverage of Belfast and Northern Ireland.
- UKDefenceJournal.org.uk: An online publication run by volunteers that covers defence industry news in the United Kingdom, including military operations, equipment, and humanitarian work. The site also publishes fact-checks on military topics.