Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow has said “fake news” is “almost as old as journalism” but warned that modern technology meant it now reached “about half the world”.
The broadcaster was speaking as Channel 4 came to the end of a week of programming dedicated to the growing issue of fake news, which is currently the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly decried sections of the media as “fake” and of propagating “fake news” in the few weeks since his inauguration on January 20.
Asked how journalists should handle Trump, Snow told the Huffington Post they should “report exactly what he says” and warned against “softening” Trump’s message.
“It’s the truth. He does say seriously crazy things,” he said.
On Trump’s attacks on journalists, Snow said: “It veers between pantomime and something very dark. He does mean it. He really hates us. That’s a bad situation. To have one of the theoretically most powerful men in the world hating journalists is a bad place to be.”
He said Trump was too “haphazard” to be a real threat to journalists, but warned the President would “undoubtedly do something to restrict our [journalists’] freedom” if left to his own devices.
The Bafta-winning broadcaster said that while it was “worrying” fake news could be used to cast someone in a better light – he mentions Pope Francis’s faked endorsement of Trump – “there’s always been fake news. It’s almost as old as journalism but it didn’t used to go very far.
“There are some people who think Freddie Starr really did eat a hamster. As far as I know he didn’t. That was just a newspaper. We used to crow: ‘Six million people have read that story’. But now we’re talking about half the world.
“If we get two billion hits [on Facebook] over the year – and we’re a tiny organisation – just think how much stuff there is out there.”