Twitter has fired a warning shot after the Conservatives were accused of misleading the public by renaming the party’s official Twitter account ‘factcheckUK’.
The name change came during the live leader’s debate on ITV and made claims about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s statements, as well as announcing Boris Johnson as the ‘clear winner’.
Today, Twitter issued a statement warning that any further attempts to ‘mislead people’ during the election campaign will result in action.
In a statement, the company said: ‘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.’
The Tory party has been heavily criticised for the move from across the political spectrum – as well as by official fact-checking organisations.
The @CCHQpress account is verified by Twitter, displaying a blue tick which is intended to denote that a user is genuine.
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.’
Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly later attempted to defend the move.
He told BBC Newsnight after the debate: ‘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.’
He replied ‘I disagree’ when told the party had been misleading the public, and said the change would have been an idea from the party’s ‘digital team’.
Asked if he knew about the change, Mr Cleverly said: ‘The digital team have got a remit, I set that remit, they work within the remit and I’m absolutely comfortable with them calling out when the Labour Party puts what they know to be complete fabrications in the public domain – and we will call that out every time they do it.’
The Liberal Democrat press office posted an image suggesting they were reporting the account to Twitter for ‘pretending to be me or someone else’.
They tweeted: ‘And people wonder why trust in politics has been eroded @CCHQPress.’
Labour’s David Lammy tweeted: ‘The Conservative Party press office @CCHQPress rebranding themselves as ‘FactCheckUK’ shows what disdain this party and this government has for the truth.”
‘The Electoral Commission must investigate and punish this blatant attempt to decieve (sic) the public.’
The account description during the debate was ‘Fact Checking Labour from CCHQ’.
After the debate finished the account reverted to its regular Conservative Party branding.