Monday 24 September 2012

MailOnline publishes 'creepshots'

On Saturday, the Guardian published an article on creepshots - photographing women without their knowledge (often 'upskirt' photos) - and revenge porn. Early in Kira Cochrane's article, she wrote:

Erin Gloria Ryan, a writer for popular women's website, was alerted to the [creepshots] forum by concerned Reddit users who are trying to get it closed, partly because some of the pictures appear to have been taken in schools.

A day later, MailOnline's Michael Zennie wrote an article about Reddit and creepshots:

Zennie wrote:

Campaigners are fighting to close an online forum that promotes the photographing of unsuspecting women for users' sexual gratification.

The message board on the popular website Reddit was explicitly created by users who wanted to ogle candid photos that were taken without the subjects' knowledge.

The sub-forum is called 'CreepShots', featuring images of ordinary women on the street, in the gym or even at school who are caught unawares by stealthy 'creeps' with cameras.

Most shots focus on the buttocks or breasts of non-consenting women going about their daily lives - and users admit that 'at least 40 percent' of the images are of underage girls.

Someone at MailOnline then decided to illustrate the article with FOUR of the creepshot photos the article is complaining about.

There is no justification for publishing any of these images. Indeed, MailOnline has now removed all the photos from the article - albeit, some 15 hours after it was first published - a clear indication it knew this was a serious error.

Two of the photos were upskirt shots of schoolgirls whose faces were not shown. There was simply no way for the MailOnline to know how old they were. In one caption, they said:

Another image in a school tries to capture an 'upskirt' of a pupil.

In the other:

Online voyeurism: A large number of the 'Creep' forums are 'upskirt' images, apparently taken in school.

'Online voyeurism' indeed. It's not that unusual for the Mail and MailOnline to display such hypocrisy - as with The X Factor final, it can froth about sexualised images while simultaneously revelling in such material.

But in this case, MailOnline has gone further. It admits the photos were taken 'without permission' and yet deems them suitable to publish. It refers to the fact that many of the images are apparently of 'underage girls', yet deems them suitable to publish. Given the faces are covered, MailOnline has no idea how old any of the girls are, yet deems them suitable to publish.

Mail editor-in-chief Paul Dacre told Leveson he was "very proud of MailOnline." It won newspaper website of the year at the 2012 Press Awards. MediaGuardian recently named MailOnline publisher Martin Clarke as the 38th most powerful media figure.

* This is the article before the photos were removed - this blog has decided to censor the images:

UPDATE 1: During writing this post, and one hour after removing all the pics, MailOnline edited the article and re-published the first photo.

UPDATE 2: An hour after that, another photo re-appeared, but it was now partly censored with a black box.

(Hat-tip to Simon)

Sunday 23 September 2012

Sun reports on 'wonder pill' that 'flights flab'

A couple of weeks after research was published about spin and medical reporting, The Sun reports on a 'wonder pill' that fights 'tummy flab':

Any media report that includes the term 'wonder pill' should be treated with caution. The Sun's Health and Science Editor Emma Little writes:

A wonder pill to fight belly fat hit the UK yesterday.

The drug — made from a vile-tasting fruit — is also a breakthrough in the war on cholesterol.

It contains concentrated juice from the intensely bitter bergamot — which is used in cooking in Calabria, southern Italy. Heart experts intrigued by locals there rarely suffering coronary disease claim to have traced it to the fruit.

Analysis revealed it is packed with chemicals called polyphenols.

These work together to open up arteries and increase blood flow — helping the body to burn fat more efficiently.

Tiny amounts of the juice cut blood sugar levels by a fifth in tests, boosting people’s metabolisms so they carried less belly fat.

Meanwhile, the juice was found to lower artery-clogging cholesterol by almost a THIRD. And the fruit raised levels of “good” cholesterol.

The new pills, costing £42 a month and called BergaMet, are taken twice a day before a meal. They have NO side-effects — unlike cholesterol-fighting statins, which can cause muscle weakness and memory loss. That means the pills could be an alternative.

One look at the product website reveals a key caveat in the claim about fighting flab:

May support weight management programs in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise

'May'. But the 'healthy diet and exercise' are probably more important to weight management.

The US website is even more revealing. It claims the pill:

Helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels in normal healthy individuals^*

But a note at the end of the page reveals what those symbols mean:

^ These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

* Levels already within normal limits. 

The statement about 'weight management programs' is also marked with a ^ on the US site.

It is also worth noting a 2011 judgement from the Complaints Resolution Panel of Australia's Thereutic Products Advertising Complaints. It upheld complaints about claims on

The advertiser did not respond to the particulars of the complaint, but stated that as a result of the complaint the website was under review...

In the absence of any evidence from the advertiser, the Panel was satisfied that the advertisement contained many representations that were likely to arouse unwarranted and unrealistic expectations in relation to the advertised product. These included the representations that the advertised product has benefits in relation to lowering cholesterol levels...lowering bad cholesterol levels, providing cholesterol and metabolic support, lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome, aiding in weight loss or weight management, or has any benefits in relation to...excessive abdominal fat.

'Unwarranted and unrealistic expectations' may also result from a newspaper report lauding it as a 'wonder pill'.

Spinning the results of medical trials

On 11 September, a study was published on 'Misrepresentation of Randomized Controlled Trials in Press Releases and News Coverage'.

The aim of the research was to:
  • evaluate the presence of “spin” in press releases and associated media coverage; and 
  • evaluate whether findings of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) based on press releases and media coverage are misinterpreted.
The researchers identified:
  • 41% of abstracts contained spin.
  • 46% of press releases contained spin.
  • 51% of news items contained spin.
(The researchers defined 'spin' as: 'reporting that emphasizes the beneficial effects of the experimental (new) treatment.')

NHS Behind the Headlines explains:

First, at the abstract (summary) level. Leaving aside any deliberate spinning, many researchers may just unconsciously “sex-up” their report abstracts to present them in the best possible light...

Second, at the press release level. Press officers for universities, research institutes or medical journals are under pressure to generate media coverage. And a lively, positive “breakthrough” will get more coverage than results that are dull and inconclusive.

Third, at the journalism level. Many journalists claim (with some justification) that they are over-worked and under-resourced so they simply read the press release (and some might read the abstract) before writing the story. The full study on which the press release is based is rarely read.

The result: articles about cake curing dementia, Page 3 making you brainy, and the cancer risk of turning the light on when you go to the toilet at night

NHS Choices has a 'How to read health news' guide, which suggests some key things to look for in such reporting. For example - was the research done on humans or mice? How many people were involved? Did the study assess what is mentioned in the headline?

(Hat-tip to Mike)

Monday 17 September 2012

More journalists accuse MailOnline of plagiarism

On 1 September, Press Trust of India correspondent Rezaul Hasan Laskar tweeted:


The version of the article that appeared on MailOnline was a word-for-word copy of the original - but with a 'Mail Today Reporter' byline.

A few days later, an update:


A similar 'error' occurred a few days ago.

On 25 August, OPEN Magazine in India published an article by Lhendup G Bhutia about a:

four-year-old who went missing in a jungle and returned 38 years later.

A couple of weeks later, a version of the story was published by MailOnline. Several days after, OPEN accused the Mail of plagiarism:

We are surprised to find that UK’s Daily Mail has carried a similar story, plagiarising portions of OPEN’s feature. Here, we present only the portions of the Daily Mail story that are direct lifts, ignoring those parts that have been more efficiently rephrased.

And they give examples:


She keeps her new possessions by a window. A bottle of metallic green nail polish, a plastic comb, tubes of moisturisers and fairness cream, and a maroon lipstick—all gifted by women in the village. When she wakes up every morning, she scrubs her face with cream, paints her nails—regardless of any grime underneath—and combs her long hair, which she has taken to tying with a hair band.


She keeps her gifts from her neighbours by a window - a bottle of metallic green nail polish, a plastic comb, tubes of moisturiser and lipstick.

When she wakes up every morning she scrubs her face with cream, paints her nails and combs her long hair, which she has taken to tying with a hair band.



Surprisingly, for someone believed to have lived in a forest away from human habitation and bereft of any social skills, Chhaidy is not shy of human interaction, although her expressions of fondness are childlike.


Surprisingly, for someone believed to have lived in a forest away from human habitation for 40 years, Chhaidy is not shy of human interaction, although she is very childlike.



Chhaidy, on the other hand, has received no medical or psychological attention. She spends her days moving from home to home, playing with anyone, young or old, who seems interested.


Since then she has received no medical or psychological attention. And she spends her days moving from neighbour to neighbour, playing with anyone, young or old.

And so on. There is no mention of OPEN in the Mail's article. 

MailOnline, overseen by Martin Clarke, was named newspaper website of the year earlier this year.

The 'pelican with TWO HEADS'

MailOnline reports:

A two-headed pelican? We're told by Snejana Farberov:

Two heads are always better than one, the saying goes, although one feathered fowl may disagree.

A pelican that appears to have two heads was captured in flight over the Danube River by a lucky Ukrainian photographer earlier this month.

The image was taken by Vladimir Kucherenko in the Danube Delta, Europe's largest and best preserved delta which is a host to 300 species of birds...

This is not the first time this phenomenon has been seen among the winged representatives of the animal kingdom.

Here's the pic of 'this phenomenon', as it appears on MailOnline:

The majority of the comments on the story are, unsurprisingly, critical of the Mail ("Can I have a job with DM please? Clearly, it's quite easy and your reporters can write any old unverified rubbish," says logical15).

(Hat-tip to Arnold)

Sunday 16 September 2012

Mail on Sunday corrects '£190,000 for two road signs' story

In his column on 11 September, Richard Littlejohn said:

The picturesque Yorkshire town of Masham has been pushed off the map by bungling bureaucrats.

After the nearby A1 was upgraded to a six-lane motorway, the nearest junction to Masham was closed and passing trade dried up.

Local councillors and business owners asked the Highways Agency to relocate direction signs to another junction two miles south, but they were told it would be too expensive. When they offered to pay for the signs themselves, they were quoted a staggering £190,000. After a bit of haggling, the agency agreed to reduce the price to £30,000 — way beyond the means of the town, which has suffered hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost business.

Heaven only knows where they came up with £190,000 for two road signs. Even 30 grand is an absurd amount of money.

Out of interest, I checked the website of Archer Safety Signs, which supplies everything from No Entry and Keep Left notices to public footpath signs.

How much? Have a guess. Not even close. Prices range from £38.75 for a national speed limit sign up to £53.60 for something more elaborate. Archer will also do you a nice line in posts and fittings, starting at just over £19. Chuck in a bag of cement and a couple of blokes with shovels, and it’s job done for under 500 quid, all in.

So how did the Highways Agency come up with a quote of £190,000? Your guess is as good as mine. Still, it’s not their money.

If you’ve ever wondered why public works projects always end up costing ten times the original estimate, look no further.

This was based on an article in the Mail on Sunday two days before, which said: initial assessment by the Highways Agency costed the two signs at £190,000.

This was eventually reduced to £36,000.

Today, the Mail on Sunday has corrected the story:

Last week’s news story about Masham, Yorks, ‘The town that was wiped off the map’, said the Highways Agency had costed two road signs on the A1(M) at £190,000. In fact this was for nine signs on the motorway and roads to Masham.

The Highways Agency's statement on the issue says:

The Highways Agency’s position is that the initial estimate of approximately £190,000 was based on providing a full complement of nine signs on both carriageways and at junctions. This was regarded as too expensive and so the Highways Agency then consulted extensively with the community to develop a more-modest proposal, with a revised estimate for two signs on the northbound carriageway.

The cost estimate included design, road safety auditing of the scheme, manufacturing and installing the signs and posts, site supervision and temporary traffic management during the work.

'Glastonbury went ahead'

In a MailOnline article about the summer weather, a caption says:

'Glastonbury went ahead, but many events fell foul of the rain'. 


The official website states:

There is no Glastonbury in 2012 (it's our fallow year)

And, as MailOnline reported on 16 October 2010:

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, festival organiser Michael Eavis confirmed: ‘We have decided to cancel in 2012'.

Thursday 13 September 2012

ASA upholds complaints against the Mail

The Advertising Standards Agency has upheld 48 complaints about a Jubilee DVD offer in the Mail:

a. The TV ad featured a voice-over which stated, "Free with Saturdays [sic] Daily Mail, the very best of the Jubilee on one spectacular DVD. Relive the magic of four historic days, captured on film with the majesty they deserve.  Together with a glorious souvenir booklet for you to treasure. Free Jubilee DVD offered only with Saturdays [sic] Mail."  On-screen text stated "Concert footage not included. Collect tokens from Mail and Mail On Sunday. Postage payable allow 56 days for delivery". 

b. The press ad stated "FREE DVD Best of the Jubilee celebrations WITH SATURDAY'S Daily Mail".

Associated Newspapers argued that 'free with' was completely different to 'free in' and:

because the on-screen text provided additional information about where to collect the tokens and postage details it added clarity to, rather than contradicting, the voice-over.

But the ASA ruled:

that that was not a sufficiently clear distinction, particularly when the Saturday edition of the newspaper was referred to in isolation. We acknowledged the on-screen text provided further details of how the offer worked, but we considered that the qualifying text contradicted the claims in the voice-over and we concluded that the ad was misleading.

Associated Newspapers:

accepted one of their press ads had not stated that the offer required consumers to collect tokens, but they did not feel that alone was sufficient to mislead consumers, given the other ads which had subsequently appeared, all of which had stated the relevant condition. In particular, they pointed out that the front page of Saturday's edition of the Mail stated the condition.

The ASA also ruled this ad to be 'misleading':

We considered consumers could have seen the relevant press ad in isolation and decided to purchase Saturday's Daily Mail as a result, without being aware that they would be required to collect tokens in order to obtain the DVD.  We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.

The Mail has been told not to do it again. 

Monday 10 September 2012

'None of the newspapers checked the facts with us before publication'

At the end of last week, several newspapers claimed the EU wanted to 'ban' classic cars.

The Mail said:

And the Express:

The Mail's Anna Edwards wrote:

Meddling Brussels bureaucrats want to make modified and most classic cars illegal under radical reforms which would affect millions of British drivers.

But the EC Representative in the UK has denied these reports:

Reports in the press that the European Commission has proposed to make modifications to cars illegal, or to ban classic cars unless they are unchanged since manufacture are entirely wrong.

The Commission’s proposals would not, if agreed by the Member States and the European Parliament, make any difference to the current situation regarding MOT testing in the UK except to make most classic cars more than 30 years old exempt from testing if they are not used day-to-day on the roads.

All other cars would remain subject to roadworthiness testing, just as they are now. Whether or not they have been modified is not of itself relevant: what counts is whether they are safe and that is what is assessed by MOT tests in the UK and by the equivalent tests elsewhere.

What the proposals will do is require all Member States to bring their road worthiness tests up to a certain level of rigour, already applied in the UK : for example, motorbikes will need to be tested regularly everywhere, as they are already in the UK. This will make driving safer for UK drivers at home and abroad.

The Commission is writing separately to all the newspapers concerned, none of which checked the facts with us before publication.

The Express and the weather (cont.)

Daily Express, 5 September 2012:

Summer to last until October

Britain is beginning to enjoy the longest spell of hot weather so far this year.

A glorious last-minute tropical burst of summer could last late into October, forecasters said last night.

Daily Express, 10 September 2012:

80mph gales to hit Britain

Gales of up to 80mph will batter Britain this week as a perfect storm threatens to sweep across the country.


On 19 February 2010, Petronella Wyatt wrote about 'rogue bicycles' in the Mail after her mum was hit by a cyclist in London. The cyclist 'didn't bother to stop' and Petronella's mum was left with a broken right arm.

Later in the article, she mentions having her bag snatched:

When I was mugged two years ago in Kensington, West London, it was by a youth on a bike who rode on to the pavement, snatched my bag and disappeared at high speed. No one could stop him, even after I yelled that the bag was a fake.

If that was 'two years ago', that was 2008.

On 8 September 2012, a Petronella Wyatt article about 'lycra-louts' and a 'thuggish minority of cyclists' was published on MailOnline. It revealed that on 16 August, Wyatt's mum was hit by a cyclist in London. The cyclist 'failed to stop' and Petronella's mum was left with a broken right arm.

Wyatt reveals that her mum was then knocked down again three days later but, strangely, she does not mention the 2010 incident. At all.

But later in the article, she mentions having her bag snatched:

In 2012, I had my handbag stolen by a gang of youths on bikes.   

Are these two women just exceptionally unlucky with cyclists? Three accidents, two arm breaks and two muggings within a few years is very unfortunate.

Or is there something else going on here?

Look at how Wyatt describes telling a female friend about her mum's accident in 2010:

Last week I met a friend for coffee. 'How is your mother?' she asked. I stared into my latte. 'Um, she had a serious accident. Her arm is broken.' 'Oh, no. What on earth happened?' 'She was run down by a bicycle.'

The inevitable convulsion took place in the nerves of my friend's face. She looked as if she was going to laugh. She could not suppress a gurgling sound before she managed to compose her features into the correct position of commiseration and shock, and say: 'How awful!'

Curiously, there was a very similar reaction from a male friend when she told him about the 2012 incident:

Yesterday, a friend telephoned to ask about her health. 'She would be feeling better,' I replied, 'if she hadn't been hit by another bicycle the other evening.'

I could hear a convulsion in his voice. It sounded like stifled laughter. He could not repress a gurgling sound before he managed to compose himself to express sympathy and shock. 'Again? How awful!'

Does Wyatt really have two friends who make gurgling noises when told an elderly woman has been knocked down by a bike, before they look shocked and say: 'How awful!'?

Questions about these articles have also been raised by and bikebiz.

(Hat-tip to @WorkingMan)

Friday 7 September 2012

But apart from that...

The PCC has published details of the complaint about a MailOnline RightMinds article by Allan Mallinson, originally headlined 'As thousands of servicemen are made redundant, how many will be turned away from homeless shelters that are packed full of immigrants?'

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper accepted that it had been incorrect to state that benefits could not be claimed without an address; it issued a clarification to reflect this. 

It also accepted that its figure of 25% of homeless people being former servicemen had come from a report that was published on the mid-1990s; it issued a clarification which indicated that the British Legion now put the figure at 6%. 

The newspaper also amended its article to indicate that although Somalis and Poles are accommodated in some shelters, they are not in a majority. 

It also accepted that accommodation in hostels was not free and that a homeless person must be in receipt of benefits, which have been linked to National Insurance payments in the past.

The 'huge police hunt' that wasn't

This headline from MailOnline sounds serious:

The first sentence of the story then says:

A seven-year-old girl who went missing after she boarded a bus on her own almost sparking a frantic police search has been found trying to get another bus back home.

'Almost'? So the 'huge police hunt' was, in fact, 'almost' a hunt.

Skip to the last three sentences and:

Merseyside Police confirmed officers received a call from Mrs McGeehan at 6pm reporting her daughter missing and then got a call from the [bus company] security staff at 6.05pm saying they had found her.

A spokesman said: 'Officers were about to deploy resources and look for the girl when the call came in from the bus company employee.

'We were able to marry the two calls up and the matter was resolved without the need for a full scale search. This is no longer a police matter.'

(Hat-tip to Arnold at the Mailwatch Forum)

Monday 3 September 2012


The front page of the Sunday Mirror claimed it had an 'exclusive' about a 'breakthrough' in the search for the body of Keith Bennett:

'Moors murders spade clue', it promises. Simon Wright's article states:

This spade could unlock the mystery of where Moors murder victim Keith Bennett is buried.

But skip to the end of the 1,500-word article and it says this:

Tonight, a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said in a statement: “We are aware of the claims and are satisfied they would be of no assistance in finding Keith Bennett’s body.

So in what way is this a 'breakthrough'?

The Sunday Mirror is not entirely transparent about who discovered the spade. It says it was found by 'justice campaigners' and 'campaigners searching for the body of Moors murder victim Keith Bennett'.

But they are, in fact, members of 'Worsley Paranormal Group' - according to their website:

the group is one of the North West's most respected paranormal investigators

An hour after this story was posted on the Mirror's website, a version appeared on MailOnline. It also had a hopeful headline:

It also includes quotes that contradict the headline, this time from someone who had been examining the spade:

Steve Kershaw, senior lecturer in forensic analytical science at Manchester Metropolitan University...said he has been unable to trace its history.

He said: 'It is very, very corroded. The metal in it appears to be a reasonable steel that pre-dates the start of recycling.

'There was some vegetation attached to it and was found in an area of peat.

'The handle had been broken off, but even if we had lots more time, and even if we had established that it was a spade from the 60s or pre-dated the 60s, we would not have necessarily established if it was anything to do with Ian Brady.

'The only way we would have been able to tell is if it had DNA on it and that is harder to tell with the handle gone, with it being so corroded.

'Although some vegetation has survived, there is very little chance of DNA having survived.'

He said the spade has now been returned to its finders.

Today, the Mail has another article on this subject - this time, reporting comments from Keith's brother Alan:

'This is complete nonsense as is the Worsley Paranormal Group’s theories and activities.

'They are to be found all over the internet chasing anybody who they think will listen to them. They also post videos claiming to have picked up Keith on a "ghost box" machine, all of which I find totally disgusting.

'They know my thoughts on their "findings" and when they realised, finally, that I could not take them seriously, they got very angry to the point of being abusive.

'It seems now they, just like the other "oddballs" in the news lately, have gone to a newspaper. They have seen their moment to jump on the bandwagon with all the recent publicity about the case.

'This is just another of several spades that have been found on the moor. It is not near any real area of interest to anybody but themselves. I have spoken about these people with the police and we all agreed their "evidence" was of the sort that did not warrant further consideration - to put it mildly.'

He added: 'I am and will continue to be offended and angered by these people.'


On 23 August, the Mirror and the Mail wrote about tripe.

The Mail's Anna Edwards reported:

Now in an attempt to persuade a younger crowd to tuck in, sellers are turning to Facebook and YouTube to convince youngsters it's a tasty dish worth trying.

The Lancashire-based Tripe Marketing Board is pushing for a revival of the 'delicacy' which was popular with impoverished Victorians, but now attracts widespread revulsion.

Both papers quoted the Chairman of the 'Tripe Marketing Board':

Sir Norman Wrassle, the Tripe Marketing Board chairman, said tripe suffers from a poor reputation but the industry is fighting back.

'We have recently invested heavily in our communications strategy, using the social media like Facebook and Youtube to get our message across,' he said.

But one look at the website of the Tripe Marketing Board suggests all may not be what it seems. It includes 'tripe facts' such as:

Prisoners of the Spanish Inquisition were forced to either eat tripe or be burnt at the stake. Many chose the latter


The first tripe takeaway, Tripe Hut, opened in Manchester in 1979. It closed the following year


The Tripe Marketing Board was set up in 1992 to replace The Tripe Council when its CEO, Paul Mellor, left to pursue a solo career.

There's a poll where you can vote on whether you 'hate' or 'loathe' tripe. 

Hardly a good way to market tripe.

Then there's that Chairman, Sir Norman Wrassle. The photo used on the Tripe Marketing Board website looks like an old photo of an old man. That's because it's a photo of Bror Lagercrantz, a Swedish politician who died in 1981.

The small print on the website reveals that LEB Limited is behind it:

We manufacture and sell promotional material, including fridge magnets via William Blunt & Sons.

We are publishers of allegedly humorous books under the TMB Books imprint.

TMB Books - TMB as in Tripe Marketing Board. They've issued an apology for their one book:

the warning on the cover of Forgotten Lancashire And Parts Of Cheshire And The Wirral that the book is “99% fact free” is misleading. The warning should, in fact, read “100% fact free.” TMB Books would like to apologise to all customers who have pointed this out and hopes that this does not spoil their reading enjoyment.

The alarm bells should be ringing for any journalist writing this stuff. But that assumes they bothered looking at the website at all...

(Hat-tip to the Press Gazette, who also covered the recent churnalism involving a base-jumping Michael Fish)

MailOnline removes two-year-old photo from Euro 2012 article

Last week, MailOnline removed fake photos from articles about the 'Essex lion' and Tropical Storm Isaac after publishing them without appropriate checks on their accuracy.

In July, they removed a photo from an article about Polish football fans and Euro 2012:

A photograph depicting knives confiscated from Polish football hooligans has been removed from the article after we were informed that the photograph was taken in 2010 and was unrelated to Euro 2012. The article has also been amended to make it clearer to the reader that the images of the Polish police were taken during an operation ahead of the tournament.