Twitter has warned against attempts to mislead the public during the election after a Conservative Party account rebranded as a fact-checking service during last night’s leaders’ debate.
The Conservative Campaign Headquarters press office account was renamed “factcheckUK” during the broadcast, offering commentary on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s statements and retweeting messages supporting Boris Johnson.
The @CCHQpress account is verified by Twitter, displaying a blue tick which is intended to denote that a user is genuine.
The word ‘Conservatives’ did not appear on the account’s profile page, leading to many accusing the party of trying to dupe voters.
Twitter warned that any further attempts to mislead the public on its platform will lead to action.
“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,” a spokeswoman said.
“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.”
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 @FactCheckNI
— Full Fact (@FullFact) November 19, 2019
Twitter has been bolstering its efforts to block misleading information during the election campaign after earlier this month launching a new tool to enable people to report deliberately misleading details about the voting process.
The platform has also announced a ban on political adverts.
The Conservative Party came under fire after the move on Tuesday night.
The Twitter display name was changed back to CCHQ Press shortly after the debate ended.
Independent fact-checking charity Full Fact tweeted: “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 @FactCheckNI.”
.@maitlis: “You dressed up party lines as a fact-check service. That is dystopian.”
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) November 19, 2019
Some other Twitter users changed their display names to factcheckUK and posted critical comments about Mr Johnson while others changed their display name to CCHQ Press Office.
Labour’s David Lammy called for the Electoral Commission to investigate, saying it showed “what disdain this party and this government has for the truth”.
— Labour Press Team (@labourpress) November 19, 2019
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said: “Voters are entitled to transparency and integrity from campaigners in the lead up to an election, so they have the information they need to decide for themselves how to vote.
“The Electoral Commission seeks to deliver transparency to the public through the political finance rules; while we do not have a role in regulating election campaign content, we repeat our call to all campaigners to undertake their vital role responsibly and to support campaigning transparency.”
Quizzed on the controversy surrounding the account rebrand in media appearances this morning, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed that “no-one gives a toss about the social media cut and thrust”.
He went on to say: “We’ll look at the advice from Twitter but we will make no apology for having instant rebuttal of the nonsense and lies.”
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