LONDON: The fight against cloned news articles has intensified after the number of “pretty sophisticated fake sites” shut down by UK publishers more than doubled in 2021 on the previous year.
Matt Aspinall, head of publisher services at content licensing organization NLA Media Access, said the problem was widespread.
“It could be anyone from a blogger that’s just a bit naive and doesn’t really understand that you can’t just rip news content.
“It could be someone that knows exactly what they’re doing. And it could be a URL (web address) or something. It could be something like London News.today … trying to create a fake news site. All the way to these kinds of cloned businesses,” he added.
NLA revealed it had taken down more than 50,000 articles removed from 1,000 fake or illegitimate news sites last year.
Numerous UK publishers including The Guardian, Daily Mirror, Manchester Evening News, and Chronicle Live have reported their website and news articles being cloned.
The motivation for the activity remains unclear. Publishing companies rely heavily on advertisements for their revenue and duplicated sites were not showing their own advertising or asking visitors to sign up for something, NLA said.
Only in some instances were users, when clicking through to a story, redirected to crypto websites, an activity called clickbait.
However, consequences for UK publishers can be severe, leading to reputational damage.
“We had a case a few years ago with one of the national newspaper websites that was cloned, and the actual content of the interview was changed as well. So, it wasn’t immediately obvious until you looked into it and did a little bit of comparison,” Aspinall added.