WEDNESDAY 20 NOV 2019 2:48 PM

TORY 'FACTCHECK UK' TWITTER STUNT SLAMMED

The Conservative Party has received widespread condemnation for its decision to rebrand its Twitter account ‘factcheckUK’ during last night’s televised leadership debate.

Twitter said that it would take “decisive corrective action” if such a stunt were pulled again. Both the Public Relations and Communications Association and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations lambasted the move with the latter stating that any members involved would face disciplinary action.

Conservative Campaign HQ briefly rebadged its account as factcheck UK to rebut points made by Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn during last night’s debate with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The move was variously branded dystopian, Orwellian and “straight out of Donald Trump’s or Putin’s playbook”.

Conservatives defended the move. Party chairman James Cleverly said on Newsnight, “We were calling out the Labour Party’s wilful misinformation about the NHS. And every time they do that, we will call it out.” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “No one gives a toss about the social media cut and thrust.”

Twitter did not agree and branded it a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. "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," it said in a statement.

A PRCA spokesman said, “PR professionals have a duty to fight disinformation, not purvey it. The PRCA Code of Conduct is explicit in this regard. PR professionals must not disseminate false or misleading information. Doing so damages trust in our industry and in this case – the political process. We urge communications professionals to be mindful of their ethical responsibilities, particularly during a period of national importance.”

CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra said, “This sort of action damages trust, not only in the organisation which carries it out, but potentially in the election itself. Any CIPR members involved in this kind of misleading behaviour face potential disciplinary action under our Code of Conduct. It was extremely disappointing to see James Cleverly MP defending it on television after the debate. I have written to Mr Cleverly today to make this point.”

 

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