A senior Channel 4 executive has warned that fake news could influence the outcome of the next UK election, saying that the government should step in if social media companies fail to tackle the problem.

Dan Brooke, the broadcaster's chief marketing and communications officer, and board member, said he was concerned internet companies could "fiddle with fake news while democracy burns", adding that Facebook risked being branded "Fakebook" as a result.

He spoke of the problems experienced during the US Presidential election, when numerous fake stories about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were widely shared on social media.

"Fake news does not seem to be quite so rife in the UK, yet the US is often the canary in the coalmine," Brooke told the Westminster Media forum on Tuesday (13 December).

"We have more than three years before our next general election, so let's act now to ensure the same doesn't happen here."

After the US Presidential election, Barack Obama suggested the spread of misinformation online had the potential to undermine the political process, adding that social media had become a place where "everything is true and nothing is true".

False stories spread during the US election included claims that the Pope endorsed Trump and that an FBI officer investigating Hillary Clinton's emails killed himself.

Earlier this month, an incident dubbed "Pizzagate" saw a gunman fire into a pizza restaurant in Washington DC after a false story circulated online claiming it was operating a child abuse ring led by senior members of the Democratic Party.

Brooke said he welcomed recent announcements by Google to restrict sites that contain misinformation, and Facebook's pledge to implement tools to detect fake news reports.

But he said the companies were "still a long way off the pace".

"Social media companies need to get their house in order. They claim they are technology companies, not media companies, and therefore that the regulation of content is not their responsibility. But, I'm afraid this just isn't good enough. There is too much at stake."

He added: "So, if social media companies do not start showing more responsibility for repairing the public domain this will have to become a matter for policy-makers."