BBC News report on 2017 ‘fake news’ excludes its own

On December 31st the BBC News website published an article titled “How fake news plagued 2017” which provides readers with the following definition under the sub-heading “What is fake news?”.

  • Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform
  • Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive – or old photographs shared as new
  • Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people

Other proposed definitions of the phenomenon are wider. As Claire Wardle of First Draft (which is partnered by BBC News) has noted, it can also include misinformation promoted by journalists.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s article about ‘fake news’ in 2017 does not include any of its own content – which would not fall under the definition it has chosen to promote.

However, BBC Watch has recorded numerous examples of misinformation promoted by the BBC throughout the past year. Among the inaccurate claims made by the BBC to which we have managed to secure corrections are the following: 

1) The claim that most Gulf Arab countries “now accept the existence of the Jewish state”:

BBC partially corrects ‘The World Tonight’ inaccuracies

2) The claim that Jerusalem as a whole is “occupied”:

Following complaint, BBC Arabic corrects partisan terminology

3) The claim that nine people murdered in a terror attack in 2002 were “Jewish settlers”:

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

4) The claim that an attack in Syria was carried out by Israel:

BBC News website amends claim of Israeli strike in Syria

5) The claim that Tel Aviv is “the Israeli capital”:

BBC Watch prompts edit of BBC WS inaccurate location of Israel’s capital

6) The claim that Jews rioted in Manchester in the 1940s:

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

Error acknowledged, complaint upheld – yet BBC inaccuracy still remains online

7) The claim that Israel was “carved out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians”:

BBC WS acknowledges inaccurate claim in history show

8) The claim that Mt Scopus and the Hebrew University are “Israeli settlements”:

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

9) The claim that the Battle of Beersheba “led to” the Balfour Declaration:

Inaccurate BBC Balfour Declaration claim misleads audiences

10) The claim that “most Jewish organisations” rejected the 1947 Partition Plan:

BBC Watch complaint on Partition Plan inaccuracy upheld

11) The claim that a convicted soldier held the rank of sergeant:

BBC News website twice reports convicted soldier’s rank inaccurately

12) The claim that attacks on Israeli communities were carried out using “mortars”:

Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

The BBC’s narrow definition of ‘fake news’ is of particular interest given that just last month the corporation announced that it was “launching a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information”.

“James Harding, the director of BBC News, said: “This is an attempt to go into schools to speak to young people and give them the equipment they need to distinguish between what’s true and what’s false.” […]

“I think that people are getting the news all over the place – there’s more information than ever before,” said Harding.

“But, as we know, some of it is old news, some of it is half truths. Some of it is just downright lies. And it’s harder than ever when you look at those information feeds to discern what’s true and what’s not.”

Given the above examples (as well as countless others) of misinformation promoted by the BBC – along with its notoriously slow complaints procedure and inadequate corrections mechanism which does not even include a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website – one might well conclude that the physician first needs to heal himself.

BBC Watch would like to thank all the many readers who contacted us during 2017 to bring problematic BBC content to our attention. Please continue to write in – your tips are an invaluable contribution to our work of identifying content that breaches BBC editorial guidelines and trying to secure corrections to claims that mislead and misinform BBC audiences in a manner no less pernicious than the type of ‘fake news’ that the BBC does recognise. 


17 comments on “BBC News report on 2017 ‘fake news’ excludes its own

  1. “which would not fall under the definition it has chosen to promote” – err, it would, with bells on.

  2. “The claim that most Gulf Arab countries “now accept the existence of the Jewish state”:” Actually most do, and will actually sign a peace deal with Israel if they retreated the to 1967 borders, but Israel says that that position cannot be defended as such war still exists

  3. Good to note that even though the recognition is not official, both Jordan and Saudi Arabia are known to have dealings with Israel, as well as Egypt (and Turkey, as more), on state level; the peace treaty and retreat is actually required for the league to officially recognise Israel (If I remember right)

  4. “The claim that Jerusalem as a whole is “occupied”:” The BBC are not the only ones, I recently read a report from an Israeli HR group that said that Israel was actively purging and Zoinising East Jerusalem, not only that but Israeli landlords are taking houses in the East and forcing Palestinians out of them, in fact Israeli police have full control there so, while not “official” Israel has full control over East Jerusalem

  5. Third one is a good one, I read the English edition of that article and it didn’t have that bias reporting

  6. “The claim that an attack in Syria was carried out by Israel:” not the only site to say that, I read that on almost every site, including RT, it was corrected some time later after it was found to be something different, local reports said that Israeli airplanes bombed the area, in fact hat is still the claim by Assad by Israel, in fact Israeli media seem split on whether it was, and the source you use provides no reference from a military spokesperson

  7. Though, I see now, that you are actually referencing the “alleged attack” at the bottom of that page referenced in the timeline, it seems Israeli media are split on the attacks there as well, this would suggest Israel did actually attack positions around that time due to spill over from the conflict. But the keyword there is “Alleged” I am not sure if that constitutes as “fake news”

  8. “The claim that Tel Aviv is “the Israeli capital”:” This is the de facto capital after Trump was told to go to hell over his plans to make Jerusalem official, that’s a good question: how can it be the capital if Israel is not occupying it? Your points seem to contradict each other

  9. “The claim that Jews rioted in Manchester in the 1940s:” While I do see it that is really small sentence in an interview debate and anyone who searched it would know what she meant, I guess that’s why the BBC initially ignored you because it would have produced more work to correct it than for people listening to just Google.

  10. “The claim that Israel was “carved out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians”:” Hmm, difficult since it was the Palestinian mandate under our rule, and the mandate that Israel still uses to this day to declare their legitimacy within the UN (which was the league of nations back then) is the Palestinian Mandate (other names exist, but all have one common word “Palestine”). That could explain why the BBC has not added a correction.

  11. “The claim that Mt Scopus and the Hebrew University are “Israeli settlements”:” This link seems extremely biased in how you attack the BBC here, you even use an “opinion article” as a factual basis for attacking the BBC… Which is really quite laughable. They make a good point: Israel can say and do whatever they want, but the world will say otherwise, the BBC merely uses what the world says… I don’t see how that is fake news, it more that you don’t like the position of the UN on this matter

  12. “The claim that attacks on Israeli communities were carried out using “mortars”:” This sounds more like a typo, they correctly said rockets all the time except once, sounds like the editor didn’t know the difference between a rocket and a mortar, it can be quite hard tom identify the differences at times, especially since most rockets Hamas have are short arc rockets, which basically have the same attack pattern as mortars. Also the BBC has reported on Israeli attack victims many times, maybe not this time but I have read many articles from them, where the victims were shown in full form. While it is true that the BBC don’t seem to want to jump in and get interviews, even of the “people they want” they are reporting on key events. I guess if you want more detail you should do as you did and read a local news article. Again, this is not really fake news, more of a typo and omitting details on all sides to give only a brief article.

    In have not read the rest since it seems a bit biased at times to pro-Israeli regardless of internationally recognised views on the matter, basically not fake news, just you not liking the world’s stance on the mater and so calling it fake news.

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