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Twitter Accuses Conservative Party of “Misleading” British Voters

Dominique Adams

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Twitter says that the Conservative party misled voters by posing as a fact checking account during the election debate.

The Conservative Party has come under fire from Twitter for changing its branding on the social media platform to present itself as an independent fact-checker during ITV’s election debate.

Twitter said it would take “decisive corrective action” against “any further attempts to mislead people”. Despite calling the Conseratives out on their behaviour, Twitter did not punish the party and, at time of writing, the tweets remain online.

During the debate, the party’s social media team temporarily rebranded one of its twitter accounts, @CCHQPress, as “Fact Check UK”. They also made the text with the words ‘from CCHQ’ in a much smaller font, added a new profile picture to the account and removed any clear mention of the Conservative Party from its profile.

The account then posted specially-made graphics without any party branding and labelled a Tory claim about climate change “true”. They then tweeted that UK Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader, Boris Johnson, was “the clear winner” of the debate.

Fact-checkers and a number of journalists, have condemned the behaviour calling it “inappropriate and misleading” – adding that the Conservatives purposely tried to trick voters into thinking the tweets were from independent sources and not from the party. Channel 4’s Fact Checked urged viewers to follow “real fact-checking sites”.

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Full Fact, a genuine fact checking agency said: “It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their twitter account ‘factcheckUK’ during this debate. Please do not mistake it for an independent fact checking service such as FullFact, FactCheck or FaceCheckNI.”

A spokesman for Twitter said: “Twitter is committed to facilitating healthy debate throughout the UK general election. 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.”

Conservative Party chairman, James Cleverly staunchly defended the behaviour of the party’s digital team, who are within his remit, saying he was “absolutely comfortable” with the account “calling out…complete fabrications” from the Labour Party.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight he said: “The Twitter handle of the CCHQ press office remained CCHQPress, so it’s clear the nature of the site.”

https://www.dataprotectionscot.com/

Both the Labour Party said the behaviour was “laughable” and was evidence their rivals could not be trusted. The Liberal Democrats said the move was “straight out of Donald Trump or Putin’s Playbook”.

Twitter’s rules state that “behaviour that can mislead people”, including accounts that post “intentionally misleading profile information or “misrepresent their affliation”, is prohibited. Potentially the party could face having its account temporarily suspended or be required to make changes to their information. They could even face being banned from the platform entirely.

This latest controversy follows the Tories’ decision a month ago to post a “doctored” video involving Labour’s Sir Kier Starmer, in which he was made to look as if he met a question, posed by ITV’s Piers Morgan with silence. Cleverly said at the time the video was meant to be “light hearted”.

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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