The UK has banned internet marketing firm Network Chain Marketing from marketing on social media following claims it had paid a fake journalist to run a series of fake stories.
The ban, announced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), comes after Network Chain posted false claims that the company had paid an investigative journalist to “report” a “scandalous story”.
The ASA said Network Chain’s posts “did not have the accuracy to be genuine and it was clearly misleading” as it made “significant factual errors”.
The company has denied any wrongdoing and said it would fight the ban.
Network Chain, which is based in London, has been accused of paying a journalist to report on the “sex trafficking” ring that runs the UK’s internet marketing network.
The ASA, which has launched a probe into the claims, said the journalist was “not an authorised member of the Network Chain marketing team and has not worked for the company for over two years”.
It said the alleged story, which it said was written by a “fraudster” in order to “cover up” the company’s “scheme to target UK social media influencers” and “inappropriate social media activity”, was a “serious allegation”.
“Network Chain Marketing paid a reporter to write the story and published it online without their permission,” it said.
“The report was false and contained significant factual errors, and did not accurately reflect the nature of the investigation.”
Network’s business has suffered a substantial loss in the last two years as a result of this story and it would have had no business publishing such a report without seeking the full support of the relevant authorities.
“Network Chain’s spokesperson said it was “reviewing our position on this matter”.
Network Chain has faced criticism from industry leaders for running fake stories, including from the UK Government.
Earlier this year, Network Chain was fined £30,000 by the BBC for “misleading” viewers about the number of fake news stories it had been publishing.
It was also banned from running a fake “pizzagate” conspiracy theory campaign in 2015, after being accused of running a hoax “pizza party” for a “fake news” story about the deaths of two women.
In a statement on Wednesday, Network said it “stands by its claims” and that it was reviewing its business.”
Our focus has always been on our business and its success, which includes building a sustainable and sustainable brand.”