Bri­tish Con­ser­va­tives ac­cused of mis­lead­ing vot­ers on Twit­ter

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD - CLAIRE CORK­ERY Lon­don

Bri­tain’s rul­ing Con­ser­va­tive Party stands ac­cused of mis­lead­ing vot­ers af­ter it changed the name of one of its Twit­ter ac­counts to “factcheckU­K” dur­ing a tele­vised elec­tion de­bate.

Twit­ter said it would take ac­tion if any­one tried a sim­i­lar stunt again.

But For­eign Sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab de­fended the move by the Con­ser­va­tive Cam­paign Head­quar­ters say­ing that vot­ers did not care.

“I knock on doors ev­ery day,” he said yes­ter­day. “No one gives a toss about the so­cial me­dia cut and thrust.

“What they care about is the sub­stance of the is­sues, and of course there’s a huge amount of scep­ti­cism about the claims of all politi­cians.”

The UK govern­ment said it was com­mit­ted to com­bat­ing the spread of fake news and dis­in­for­ma­tion.

In July, Mr Raab’s pre­de­ces­sor, Jeremy Hunt, pledged £18 mil­lion (Dh85.4m) to counter fake news in east­ern Europe and the western Balkans.

The ac­count, which is fol­lowed by 76,000 users, changed its name back to “CCHQ­Press” af­ter the de­bate on Tues­day evening be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son and op­po­si­tion Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn.

Twit­ter crit­i­cised the Con­ser­va­tive move.

“Twit­ter is com­mit­ted to fa­cil­i­tat­ing healthy de­bate through­out the UK gen­eral elec­tion,” a Twit­ter spokes­woman said.

“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.”

Full Fact, an in­de­pen­dent fact-check­ing site, also ac­cused the Con­ser­va­tive press of­fice of mis­lead­ing the public.

“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,” it said.

Twit­ter, with other so­cial me­dia sites, has come un­der fire from gov­ern­ments for fail­ing to com­bat the spread of fake news, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing elec­tion cam­paign­ing.

The so­cial me­dia plat­form pledged last month to stop all po­lit­i­cal advertisin­g, mak­ing the UK elec­tion on De­cem­ber 12 the first ma­jor test for the new pol­icy. Twit­ter also said it would make it eas­ier to re­port mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion about the elec­tion.

But Lib­eral Democrats leader Jo Swin­son was on Tues­day the vic­tim of a fake news story that was shared thou­sands of times on Twit­ter as well as Face­book and Medium.

In a bizarre mo­ment dur­ing the cam­paign, Ms Swin­son was forced to deny she en­joyed shoot­ing stones at squir­rels.

“There was one us­ing the by­line of an es­tab­lished jour­nal­ist. There was one that used Peter Walker’s name from The Guardian and he had to go on­line to de­bunk it and say he never wrote it,” the Lib Dem leader told LBC. “They’re quite so­phis­ti­cated and peo­ple do be­lieve them.”

Ms Swin­son and the leader of the Scot­tish Na­tional Party, Ni­cola Stur­geon, lost a le­gal bat­tle to be in­cluded in Tues­day’s de­bate hosted by broad­caster ITV.

In the de­bate, Mr John­son and Mr Cor­byn clashed over their poli­cies on Brexit, the Na­tional Health Ser­vice and the Bri­tish econ­omy.

Mr John­son re­peat­edly said he would “get Brexit done” un­like his ri­val, while Mr Cor­byn ac­cused the prime min­is­ter of try­ing to sell off the NHS to US health com­pa­nies as part of his di­vorce deal.

A snap poll re­leased im­me­di­ately af­ter the de­bate showed it was a “dead heat” as to which of the two lead­ers per­formed bet­ter.

A YouGov poll showed 51 per cent of the public said Mr John­son was victorious while 49 per cent backed Mr Cor­byn.

The de­bate is be­ing seen as a win for Mr Cor­byn by an­a­lysts, be­cause the Labour leader and his party are trail­ing the Con­ser­va­tives by about 12 points in polls.

The ac­count, which is fol­lowed by 76,000 users, changed its name back to ‘CCHQ­Press’ af­ter the de­bate


Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son, left, and Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn de­bate on ITV

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