Conservative MP Damian Collins has warned Facebook that it must do more to purge fake news from its platform in the run-up to the UK general election on 8 June as such material poses a threat to the ‘integrity of democracy’.
The chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, and former M&C Saatchi man, has said the social media giant must follow up strong words with equally strong actions. He implored Facebook to remove fake news within hours, block individuals who repeatedly post misleading and false information and couch suspect posts with an official warning that content is contested.
Fears are growing that significant numbers of voters could be swayed to switch political allegiances on the basis of falsehoods.
Outlining his fears to the Guardian Collins said: “The risk is what happened in America. The top 20 fake news stories in the last three months of the election were shared more than the top 20 most shared stories that were true. The danger is, if for many people the main source of news is Facebook and if the news they get on Facebook is mostly fake news, they could be voting based on lies.
“Looking at some of the work that has been done so far, they [Facebook] don’t respond fast enough or at all to some of the user referrals they can get. They can spot quite quickly when something goes viral. They should then be able to check whether that story is true or not and, if it is fake, blocking it or alerting people to the fact that it is disputed. It can’t just be users referring the validity of the story. They have to make a judgment about whether a story is fake or not.”
In response to the intervention Facebook reaffirmed that it must "…do our part to help people understand how to make decisions about which sources to trust."
Recent months have seen the social media platform tinker with its ‘trending topics’ section to prevent fake news items from rising to the top but yesterday COO Sheryl Sandberg stated that it would be inappropriate for the business to act as an arbiter of truth.