The managing director of Mail Online, the Daily Mail’s online version, has said that many of those who attacked the newspaper for Jan Moir’s article on Stephen Gately had not actually read the piece.

James Bromley told an Association of Online Publishers forum yesterday that the page views on the online article did not match the number of times it was “retweeted” by Twitter users.

The October 16th article, in which Ms Moir said the star’s death was “sleazy”, was headed “Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death”.

It was published the day before the Boyzone singer’s funeral and a record-breaking 25,000 people complained to the Press Complaints Commission that it was homophobic and inaccurate.

Press Gazette reports that Mr Bromley said: “Irrespective of your individual views about that story, while it was being retweeted by some very high profile Twitter users, the retweets did not match the number of reads of the article [online].

“In fact, there was about 65 per cent more [retweets] in one single hour relating to the article than actual views of the article. People were retweeting without actually reading.

“Yet the Ten O’ Clock News and the newspapers the next day pick up on Twitter as being a medium which resembles…a true indicator of mass audience.”

The article spread across the internet after it was picked up by figures such as Stephen Fry. However, many people circulated links to the column on other websites, urging readers not to give Mail Online more hits.

In February, the PCC cleared Ms Moir of breaching its code of conduct.

Mr Bromley did not reveal how many hits the online article received but said Daily Mail staff had been shocked at the anger over it.

He said: “It was an eye-opener for people in the building who could not understand why Facebook and Twitter were attacking them.”

Ms Moir was given Stonewall’s Bigot of the Year award for the article.

The day after it was published, she wrote another article apologising to Gately’s parents for the “insensitive timing” of the column.