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Friday 29 March 2019

Stop Funding Fake News - We Have To Talk

[Update at end of post]

After the campaign calling itself Stop Funding Fake News came to wider attention through the advocacy of Countdown numbers person Rachel Riley, the questions about it came thick and fast. Not least of these was to ask why SFFN was smearing websites like The Canary and Evolve Politics as Fake News and clamouring to have advertisers abandon them, rather than work with Impress, which regulates their output.
There is a difference between Fake News and opinionated content with which one might disagree strongly. Were The Canary actually peddling Fake News, it would be the most straightforward of tasks to make a complaint via Impress and have the site take down the offending material - or at least update it to reflect reality. SFFN has not done that.
Moreover, its anonymity and highly selective targeting has begun to cause disquiet, this exemplified by freelance Alex Tiffin, who has told of “My message to @macmillancancer & @sheffhallamuni regarding their decisions to blacklist @TheCanaryUK because of SFFN: ‘I'm contacting you as I'm investigating the campaign by Stop Funding Fake News who are targeting advertisers on several websites which they do not like.’
There was more. “All of the websites in question are regulated by @impressreg in line with the Leveson inquiry. This places them at a higher standard than traditional news outlets as their complaints process is external to themselves unlike IPSO … I can see that you were contacted about your ads on @TheCanaryUK and that you replied stating you would blacklist them”. Then come his questions to those advertisers.
a) Who made the decision to blacklist @TheCanaryUK website from getting your ads … b) Was any research carried out to ascertain if @TheCanaryUK is in fact a ‘fake news’ website as claimed … c) Did you reach out to @TheCanaryUK to talk to them about this … d) Do you think it is fair for an anonymous company to run de-platforming campaigns against sites because they don't like their content … There are very few independent news websites in the UK. Only these are being targeted by SFFN - do you think this is fair”.
His was not the only concern raised. The Tweeter known as Infoism had concerns about the SFFN site’s data harvesting: “This is why it’s so important to use privacy tools when visiting the site. Here’s an analysis of the page. Trackers should be blocked … It would be helpful if @SFFakeNews also advised people that visiting those websites to report ads exposes them to a variety of trackers that collect personal data”.
Did someone say Data Protection? The Tweeter known as Allotment Lady did. “@SFFakeNews you’re anonymous but you ask people to contact you (which means sharing personal data) and to donate money to you. There is no privacy policy or cookie acceptance button on your web site. Why not? Cc @iconews #GDPR”.
And Jo Phillips was on the same page. “They don't have a privacy policy on their website. I thought that was a legal requirement now?” Well, well. So SFFN won’t come clean on who’s behind it, won’t explain why it is smearing sites as Fake News, doesn’t let visitors know it’s harvesting their data, and is potentially in breach of data protection laws.

Stop Funding Fake News has some serious explaining to do. We’re waiting.
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[UPDATE 1545 hours: Alex Tiffin advises that Macmillan Cancer Support has been in touch with him regarding the suggestion it has blacklisted The Canary.
As it has told him, all that has happened is that their current advert with the site has been stopped while further enquiries are undertaken. Also, The Canary has been contacted, and so the people there are aware of developments.

Stop Funding Fake News also needs to maintain this level of accuracy]


Anonymous said...

"So SFFN won’t come clean on who’s behind it..."

A bit like the TIGgy website then. But now they've altered their name to "Change UK", known henceforth as CUKheads. That's before they get obliterated at the polls - assuming they last that long.

Steve Woods said...

If SFFN is a charity as is claimed in the image in the update and is based in the UK, then there's one big omission on its website, namely a charity registration number.