I understand how the American 1st amendment makes it hard to address fake news. However, I'm wondering about the UK?
I understand that UK law is more permissive than the US First Amendment and that prior restraint on the publication can be exercised by the UK government. In the US, prior restraint is almost certain to be overridden by courts. I'm interested in what limits the UK government's discretion in restraining the publication of factually false information.
The story below comes from my tracking of propaganda (fake news) that eventually became targeted on US military and defense contractors. I'm choosing this example because it seems to lack a partisan political motive.
Facts in "B-52" example
Note: I believe the italicized headlines below to be factually false. The body texts were original as false, and I've inserted links where possible.)
Dateline uncertain: In the last few weeks before the US left leaving Afghanistan, a rumor started circulating, claiming in the Arab and Islamic community "news" sources saying: US brings B-52 bombers back into action as the Taliban sweep across Afghanistan. No eyewitnessed or sources supporting the rumor were reported. Anyone with training in journalism should be skeptical of unsourced reports.
August 7th: The good news is that (as far as I could tell) U.S. News organizations refrained from spreading the propaganda until The Times picked (London, UK) up the theme, using the headline US unleashes B-52s in bid to stem Taliban advance (limited paywall). The competing London tabloid (The Sun) ran a story the same day saying FIREPOWER UNLEASHED: US deploys massive B-52 bombers in desperate bid to halt Taliban advance on major cities as Brits told to get out. The Sun's only source cited was The Times.
Note: I'm not a reader of either paper, but bias reporting site
humantruth.info says of the Times and the Sun:
UK popular newspapers are infamous for their daft stories, political bias, poor fact-checking, and skewed reporting, combined with a concentration on celebrities and entertainment-value news. By comparing all newspapers to common criteria, including academic judgments of their quality and the number of complaints raised against them, it is possible to score each one of them. As a result of their low quality, only 7% of the population rate printed news as the best source of "accurate and reliable" information1, and across Europe, the UK's written press is the least trusted, by a wide margin. It is also clear that this problem is largely self-imposed - the lowest quality newspapers are some of the most popular, and the highest-quality ones rate as some of the least popular. The overall effect troubles British culture, creating a cycle of misinformation and there have been many calls for the UK government to regulate the industry using similar methods to those used in most of the rest of Europe. For now, the only control is a self-regulation body (IPSO) which is staffed by the papers themselves and is widely considered dysfunctional.
[Emphasis added, minor edits appled]
After The Times posted the story on its website, some surprising US publications followed suit. One news source, AirForceTimes (with an audience in the US military and defense contractors) echoed up the propaganda on August 12 in: US, coalition airstrikes in CENTCOM region plummet amid withdrawal plans. by saying:
U.S. AC-130 gunships, B-52 bombers, F-15 fighter jets and drones are in action across Afghanistan, hoping to slow the Taliban’s stunning sweep through the country to take control of 10 provincial capitals so far in August, the AP and Task and Purpose reported this week.
I chatted with the reporter credited in the byline. I asked her for sources. Basicly all sources she cited lead back to The Times website. I asked her if she had attempted to verify with USCENTCOM? She said she had, but that CENTCOM wouldn't confirm or deny, and said that was "typical". She seemed totally unaware of the reputation of The Times and The Sun, and actually believed she had written a properly sourced piece of real news.
US news sources followed suit, for example, the New York Post, saying B-52s lead new US airpower onslaught to stop Taliban advances in Afghanistan and mis-sourcing it further as:
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers, the mainstay of American strategic airpower since 1952, were flying into Afghanistan from al-Udeid airbase in Qatar, The Times of London reported, citing Defense Department sources.
None of the stories seem to have been retracted.