Plaid Cymru’s Director of Communications Rhun ap Iorwerth has raised concerns that the internet phenomena of fake news has arrived in Wales, following reports that such stories may have played a part in the US election.
Outgoing President Barack Obama told a news conference in Berlin this week: “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”
Fake news outlets had spread misinformation about the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, with analysis by Buzzfeed suggesting that such stories had been read more widely than real news.
In referring to similar cases in Wales, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM cited a Facebook page called ‘Wales for a United Kingdom’ has been posting similarly untrue nonsense about Plaid Cymru.
A post on Remembrance Sunday falsely claimed that “Plaid Cymru turned down an invitation to attend Remembrance Sunday in London”.
In fact, Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary leader, Hywel Williams was present at the Remembrance Sunday Cenotaph Service, and later at the Foreign Office in London, representing Plaid Cymru. Several other Plaid Cymru elected representatives were present at services throughout Wales.
Plaid Cymru’s Director of Communications Rhun ap Iorwerth, said:
“The global internet phenomena of fake news is deeply concerning.
“I understand that it’s difficult for Facebook to control the content that people post on their platform given the importance of free speech and that the individuals who do this are not breaking any laws.
“So I would urge social media users to treat apparent ‘news’ from unfamiliar sources with a healthy degree of scepticism.
“Pluralism within the media is essential for any healthy democracy, however stories which are designed to damage the reputation of individuals, bodies or political parties do nothing except poison the well of public discourse.
“I am especially disappointed that the story in question has used the solemn occasion of Remembrance Day to try to score cheap political points.
“Facts are sacred. As a journalist and member of the NUJ, I feel passionately about the integrity of the industry and the responsibility of those within it to uphold that principle.
"I agree with US President Barack Obama when he says that we have real problems ahead of us as a society if the line between truth and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred. We should all commit to establishing the facts before deciding to believe malicious news stories from questionable sources.”