Twitter says UK PM's party misled public with 'factcheck' account

Clay Curtis
November 20, 2019

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly BBC attempted to defend the move on Newsnight, saying that the party had to change the name of the feed, to "call out" Corbyn's views about the NHS.

"It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their Twitter account "factcheckUK" during this debate".

The issue is that - despite retaining its Twitter handle - the overhaul of the username and branding seems like a fairly obvious attempt at masquerading as an impartial, independent fact checking account.

'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'.

"Twitter is committed to facilitating healthy debate throughout the United Kingdom general election", a Twitter spokeswoman said.

"Any further attempts to mislead people by editing verified profile information - in a manner seen during the United Kingdom election debate - will result in decisive corrective action".

Twitter spoke out after the Conservative Campaign Headquarters press office changed the name of its account from "CCHQPress" to "factcheckUK" while Prime Minister Boris Johnson was debating Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday night.

"We have global rules in place that prohibit behaviour that can mislead people, including those with verified accounts. Please do not mistake it for an independent factchecking service", it said. I am absolutely comfortable with them calling out when the Labour party put out complete fabrication in the public domain and we will call that out whenever they do it'.

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Mr Tom Brake, an MP with the smaller opposition Liberal Democrats, said the tactic was "straight out of Donald Trump or Putin's playbook".

Labour said it was a "scam" and showed the Conservatives could not be trusted in government. The organisation said the party's account should not be allowed to be used in this way while verified and that it had complained to Twitter.

Other users on the platform subsequently changed their display names to mock the move.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on Wednesday warned that "we all have a responsibility to speak accurately, to challenge falsehoods when we hear them, and to be careful to separate facts from opinion".

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the party did not need to apologise for countering the "lies" that were "serially and systematically" put out by Labour and its allies on social media.

For his part, Mr Corbyn is accused of hiding his true views on Brexit and of betraying party members who accuse him of not doing enough to address anti-Semitism.

Full Fact, which is a charity supported by donations from the likes of Google, described the incident as "irresponsible".

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