Theresa May has said fake news “is a concern” as she revealed she had been a victim to “inaccurate” claims herself during a Facebook Live interview hosted by ITV News today.
May was answering questions from users on the social media platform as part of her general election campaign ahead of the nation going to the polls on 8 June.
ITV political editor Robert Peston, who led the interview, claimed it was the “very first time” a serving PM had taken part in a Facebook Live event, although David Cameron answered questions in a live town hall debate with Buzzfeed UK that was broadcast on Facebook Live in June last year while he was still Prime Minister.
Statistics from the finished broadcast showed that it received a total of 40,000 comments, 388,000 views and 16,000 “reactions” (including likes and emoticons) from users. Views seemed to peak at just over 14,000 while the interview was live.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeared to also ask the Prmie Minister a question on Facebook.
The exchange on fake news was as follows:
Peston: “There’s quite a lot of concern… about how in the EU Referendum, very sophisticated data analytical techniques were used to target ads and information at vulnerable people and change people’s minds in a way that some people think is bad for democracy.
“Is this issue of campaigning on social media and indeed whether there’s a level playing field – is this something that has been brought to your attention? Do you have any views on it?”
May: “Yes. First of all, I think it’s important that we do campaign in new ways, like this effectively Facebook interview that we are doing now and social media has a huge amount of good and benefits to people but there can be problems with it in terms of the sort of information people can put up there and whether those who are seeing it are able to – the sort of fake news issue – distinguish between what is real and what’s not.”
Peston: “And if somehow fake news is fed to people who are particularly susceptible to a point of view that must be a concern?”
May: “Yes it is a concern. And other things, you mention the EU referendum campaign there. During the Conservative party leadership campaign we started to see some pretty nasty videos being sent around about me. I didn’t actually see any of them, but I’m told they were in the realms of claims that weren’t accurate.
“So it is a concern, but of course as I say social media does bring huge benefits as well. But there are things that I think we can do on social media.
“For example one of the things I want is for people to be able to be entitled to ask social media companies to remove their records up to the age of when they were 18. Because I think a lot of people use these as youngsters and perhaps discover later on that somebody has looked at something they did when they were 15 and it’s had an impact. I think that’s important.