Conservative Party have advert removed by Facebook for putting a fake headline on a BBC news story

Facebook to keep deactivated ad on file as example of how platform is ‘misused’

Vincent Wood
Sunday 15 September 2019 11:15 BST
Boris Johnson visits school to launch government education drive

Facebook has removed adverts for the Conservative Party which included a false headline on a BBC news story.

The social media giant said it should serve as an example of how its tools are “misused”.

The adverts, run from the party’s official Facebook page, linked through to a BBC article on a recent education pledge with the headline: “£14 billion pound cash boost for schools”.

However, the original BBC article from 30 August, was headlined: “School spending: Multi-billion pound cash boost announced”.

It referred to a school spending increase of £7.1bn by 2022-23.

The £14bn figure announced by Boris Johnson last month was based on the combined funding increase across a three year period – not the annual increase in spending.

Before being deactivated the adverts received between 222,000 and 510,000 views - part of the £250,000 of advertising the party has run on the site across the last year.

A spokesperson told the BBC the advert would be kept as an example in their ad library so “people can see how our tools were misused".

They added: "We are working to put safeguards in place to ensure publishers have control over the way their headlines appear in advertisements."

Before being deactivated the adverts received between 222,000 and 510,000 views

The change was uncovered by Full Fact, a charity seeking to tackle disinformation, which said the advert was “misleading for readers”.

Chief executive Will Moy said: “It is wrong for the work of independent journalists to be altered in this way and misleading for readers. This government has previously agreed that UK election law must be updated and that the integrity of our elections is at risk. With an election increasingly likely, emergency legislation is needed to ensure online campaigning and advertising is truly open and transparent.”​

An earlier statement from the Conservative Party said: "It was not our intention to misrepresent by using this headline copy with the news link, where the BBC's £7bn figure is clearly displayed, but we are reviewing how our advert headlines match accompanying links."

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