Conservatives accused of misleading the public during ITV leaders debate with press account re-branding
- The Conservatives press account re-branded itself as “factcheckUK” throughout the ITV leaders debate
- Genuine fact-checking organisations branded the move “irresponsible”
- Twitter says it will take “decisive corrective action” if the party pulls a similar move again
THE CONSERVATIVES has been widely criticised after the party’s press account on Twitter changed its name to appear as a factchecking service, with the social networking site saying they misled people.
Conservative campaign HQ’s press account was re-branded as “FactcheckUK” ahead of the 19 November ITV leaders debate between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The account tweeted out party lines as rebuttal to claims made by Corbyn during the hour-long programme, with tweets prefixed with “FACT”.
The account’s profile picture was also changed from the Tory party logo to a tick. At the end of the debate, the account tweeted an image saying “FactcheckUK” had declared Boris Johnson the winner.
Although strong rebuttal operations during elections are common for political parties, the Tory press team’s attempt to present itself as a bonafide, non-partisan fact checking organisation was widely condemned.
Genuine factchecking agency Full Fact criticised the party in a statement, with the group’s chief executive saying Twitter should have acted sooner to change the name back.
In a statement released this morning [20 November], Twitter said it would take “decisive corrective action” if the party attempted anything similar again.
However, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler MP argued that Twitter’s response wasn’t enough when questioned about the controversy on BBC Radio 4.
Butler said: “We’ve been talking about the responsibilities of the social media platforms for quite a while. And they have to do better. I think this is another example where social media has failed and it’s terrible.”
The Scottish Government’s constitutional relations secretary MIchael Russell responded to the rebranding on Twitter, stating: “This isn’t spin – this is deliberate deception, or lying if you want the blunt word.”
They can’t be trusted. The ITV studio audience knew that, so do the rest of us#ITVDebate
— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) November 20, 2019
Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP said it was an example of why the Tories can’t be trusted.
Tory party chairman James Cleverly defended the move, and said he was comfortable with the party calling out “fabrications” from Labour.
The terms and conditions for Twitter forbid users from impersonating “individuals, groups, or organisations in a manner that is intended to or does mislead, confuse, or deceive others”.
A spokesperson for Twitter said: “We have global rules in place that prohibit behaviour that can mislead people, including those with verified accounts. Any further attempts to mislead people by editing verified profile information – in a manner seen during the UK Election Debate – will result in decisive corrective action.”
Speaking on BBC’s Breakfast show, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said they would look at the advice from Twitter but said “no one gives a toss about the social media cut and thrust”.
The latest controversy follows the party facing similar criticism after posted a doctored video of an interview with Labour’s Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer.
The party edited the interview with ITV to make it appear that Starmer was silent when asked a question about Brexit policy, despite the original showing he answered it with confidence.
The video was later deleted after Cleverly originally attempted to defend it as “satire”.
Image courtesy of Twitter