It's taken four months, but IPSO, the newspaper industry funded regulator, has now reached the conclusion that The Sun's significantly misleading story about "1 in 5" British Muslims being IS sympathisers was indeed "significantly misleading".
(See: Sun's dodgy 'Brit Muslim' survey draws backlash, 24 November 2015)
The interpretations The Sun had to apply in order to make its research findings fit such a divisive headline were huge and glaring and IPSO has now noted The Sun "conflated important distinctions... between "sympathy" for [people going to fight in Syria] and "support" for [jihadis]."
The Sun's misrepresentation of the research drew such criticism last November that Survation, the company which conducted the research, was quick to distance itself from the paper's conclusions.
(See: Survation distances itself from The Sun, 24 November 2015)
IPSO's decision states:
"Taken in its entirety, the coverage presented as a fact that the poll showed that 1 in 5 British Muslims had sympathy for those who left to join ISIS and for ISIS itself. In fact, neither the question nor the answers which referred to "sympathy" made reference to IS. The newspaper had failed to take appropriate care in its presentation of the poll results, and as a result the coverage was significantly misleading, in breach of Clause 1."
However, what difference IPSO's ruling, against both The Sun and its sister paper The Times - announced around midnight on a bank holiday Good Friday - will really make is less clear. The story's damage was no doubt done last year and will have lingered ever since. Furthermore, The Sun's publication of IPSO's ruling inside the paper has none of the prominence of the front page story itself. IPSO claims its committee "gave careful consideration to requiring a reference to [the decision] to be published on the front page" but in the end decided The Sun could choose where it went, as long as it was no further back in the paper than page five. The Sun opted for a single column on page two.
This was undoubtedly the biggest test so far for IPSO, which is funded by the publications it regulates, and it would be difficult to make a case for it emerging with a great deal of credit. While it no doubt had to be seen to give careful consideration to a story which drew more than 3,000 complaints, it is hard to imagine how this ruling took four months, especially when the facts seemed so plain and the story was so controversial.