News agency suing Buzzfeed applies to join press regulator IPSO to counter 'fake news' claims against stories

A British-owned press agency in the midst of a libel battle with Buzzfeed has applied to join press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Central European News (CEN) owner Michael Leidig said the decision to join IPSO was “a bid to counter the explosion of fake news claims currently being made online”.

The news agency is only the second to seek to join the regulator after the Press Association.

Leidig told Press Gazette: “It is absolutely crazy at the moment, if you do a story that goes viral, on the back of that interest stories start springing up alleging that the story is fake.

“Often the organisation making the allegation does so not only for clicks, but because the story was published by a rival.

“This is just madness, making allegations about fake news against commercial rivals or those whose political stance you dislike is further undermining faith in the business which is already at a record low.”

Last week Buzzfeed US requested ten years of email correspondence to help it defend an $11m defamation action against CEN.

The publisher has previously said it stands by its story headlined “The King of Bullsh*t News”.

Buzzfeed (in common with The Guardian, FT, Independent and Evening Standard) is not signed up to any press regulator in the UK.

Leidig told Press Gazette that rival media outlets should put concerns over the veracity of a story to an independent body who can review the claims rather than “rushing to report suspicions of fake news as fact”.

He said: “Our team employs news editors, sub editors, journalists and copy tasters. Every story we publish on our wire feed has been worked on by ten different members of our editorial team.

“We should have the right to defend the story if indeed there is a genuine complaint, not one simply motivated by dislike or rivalry.”

He added that joining IPSO would mean CEN and its journalists “would be able to defend our material against criticism and assure publishers that we hold ourselves to the same professional standards as them”.

“It would also allow the agency to stand apart from the viral content providers that do not have a tradition of professional news production and are unconcerned whether the content they are passing on is fake or manipulated in any way,” he added.

A viral video appearing to show a woman cyclist taking her revenge on men who harassed her from a van by pulling off the vehicle’s wing mirror was recently exposed by The Sun as has having been staged.

“All media that republished this story are held to IPSO’s standards for it, even though they published it in good faith,” Leidig said of the story.

“False stories like this force publishers to redo the journalistic work of fact-checking a story that should have been done in the first place by the source journalists whether freelancers or agency staff.”

An IPSO spokesperson said: “Any publisher wishing to be regulated by IPSO goes through an application process which, if successful, leads to a legally enforceable contract.

“All members are required under the contract to comply with both the Editors’ Code and our regulations, implement a clear and effective complaints process and produce an annual statement.

“We can confirm that we have received an application from CEN and look forward to speaking with them.”

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