Twitter says the UK’s Conservative Party altered its account to pose as an independent fact-checker

Twitter says the UK’s Conservative Party altered its account to pose as an independent fact-checker
Digital sovereignty

Twitter says that the Conservative Party altered an official account to give the impression of an impartial fact-checking service, in an attempt to mislead the public ahead of the UK’s general elections, according to The Guardian

During a debate Tuesday night between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, the party changed the name of its campaign headquarters press office Twitter account from CCHQPress to ‘factcheckUK,’ removing the party’s logo and replacing it with a purple and white check mark. During the debate, the account issued criticism of Corbyn guised as fact-checking. The original account setup was restored after the debate, but the party faced immediate criticism. 

“Twitter is committed to facilitating healthy debate throughout the UK general election,” a spokesperson from the company said in a statement.

“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.”

In its policy, the platform states:

“Twitter accounts that pose as another person, brand, or organization in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under Twitter’s impersonation policy.”

The blue badge marking a verified Twitter account remained in place while the account was altered.

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly argued that the account’s link to the party could still be clearly identified, and that it was earnestly fact-checking claims from their opponent. While the Twitter ‘handle’ remained CCHQPress, the name and avatar were both changed. 

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, said it would have been easy for readers to be misled. 

“Twitter is fast-moving. You’re looking quickly at your feed. You tend to look at the name rather than scrutinize the handle.”

She said the incident should be reported to the Electoral Commission. 

Earlier this month, the Conservative Party posted a doctored clip of a “Good Morning Britain” interview, altered to show Labour Brexit spokeperson Keir Starmer at a loss for words and struggling to answer questions. In the real interview, Starmer had no problems responding to questions. Cleverly said the video was meant to be “light-hearted,” and a full, unaltered clip of the interview was posted later. 

Photo by EU2017EE Estonian Presidency [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

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