Twitter will not suspend Tories for posing as neutral fact-checkers

Social platform said it would take 'decisive corrective action' if such move were repeated.

Twitter: how Conservative press office presented itself during election debate
Twitter: how Conservative press office presented itself during election debate

Twitter has indicated that it will not take action against the Conservative Party press office after it masqueraded as an independent fact-checking service during last night’s ITV election debate.

During the debate between prime minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, @CCHQPress changed its name to @factcheckUK and switched its avatar from the party’s logo to a white tick against a purple background.

While tweeting as @factcheckUK, @CCHQPress tweeted pro-Conservative claims prefaced by "FACT:" and ending with the #LeadersDebate hashtag. For Twitter users following that hashtag while watching the debate, it would not be apparent that the account’s tweets were coming from a political party instead of an independent fact-checker.

Twitter gives certain users verification ticks after estabishling that it is really the person or organisation behind the account rather than a parody or impersonation. @CCHQPress has a verification tick, which was on display while it posed as @factcheckUK.

In a statement this morning, Twitter said it would take "decisive corrective action" if such a move were repeated, indicating that no action would be taken this time.

A spokesman for the messaging platform 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."

Impersonation is a clear violation of Twitter’s rules, which say: "Twitter accounts that pose as another person, brand or organisation in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under Twitter’s impersonation policy."

Campaign has asked Twitter why it is not taking action this time, but the platform declined to comment.

The Conservatives have been widely criticised for their deceptive tactic. Full Fact, the fact-checking website run by a charity, said the move was inappropriate and misleading. Will Moy, Full Fact’s chief executive, told the BBC today that Twitter should have forcibly renamed the account.

The row comes within weeks of Twitter announcing that it would no longer accept political ads on its platform.

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