Tories criticised for ‘misleading’ public with Twitter ‘Fact Check’ name change

The Conservative Party has been criticised after one of its official Twitter accounts was rebranded as a fact-checking service.

The Conservative Campaign Headquarters press office renamed its account “factcheckUK” for the duration of Tuesday evening’s debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

Those in charge of the account then wrote commentary on the Labour Party leader’s statements and retweeted messages supporting Mr Johnson.

But some raised concerns it could be mistaken for independent fact checkers Full Fact, which described the Tory move as “inappropriate and misleading”.

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”.

The Liberal Democrats’ press office wrote on Twitter: “And people wonder why trust in politics has been eroded.”

The @CCHQpress account is verified by Twitter, which means its profile page displays a blue tick intended to show other users that the account is genuine.

But, according to Twitter’s rules published on its website, this verification can be removed for behaviour such as “intentionally misleading people…by changing one’s display name or bio”.

Twitter’s rules also state that users cannot “impersonate individuals, groups, or organisations in a manner that is intended to or does mislead, confuse, or deceive others”.

A Twitter spokesperson said on Wednesday: “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 told BBC’s Newsnight: “The Twitter handle of the CCHQ press office remained @CCHQPress so it’s clear the nature of the site.

“The reason we did that is because we were calling out the inaccuracies, the lies that were coming out during the debate. The NHS is not for sale.”

When the reporter put to him that the party had misled the public, he said: “I disagree”, adding that the change would have been an idea from the party’s “digital team”.

Sky News’s own team of political correspondents were also critical.

Lewis Goodall said: “This isn’t funny or ‘banter’. It’s disingenuous and grim.”

And in reply to a tweet setting out Mr Cleverly’s defence, Rob Powell wrote: “FACT CHECK: James Cleverly is talking rubbish.”

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