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Tory minister says ‘no one gives a toss’ about fake fact checker set up by official party Twitter account

Call for investigation by elections watchdog – while real fact checkers condemn an ‘attempt to mislead voters’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 20 November 2019 09:32 GMT
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Dominic Raab says 'no one gives a toss' about Tory 'fact checker' Twitter account

Dominic Raab has claimed “no one gives a toss” about the fake Tory fact-checking service set up for the TV election debate, as the party faces calls for an official investigation.

The foreign secretary came under fire after the Conservative press office Twitter account – with more than 75,000 followers – changed its name to factcheckUK, before pumping out support for Boris Johnson.

Layla Moran, a senior Liberal Democrat, said: “Twitter should have blocked the account and absolutely this needs to be reported to the Electoral Commission.”

But Mr Raab said: “I knock on doors every day... no one gives a toss about the social media cut and thrust.”

The controversy intensified, as the chief executive of the independent fact-checking charity Full Fact also condemned the Conservatives.

“It was an attempt to mislead voters and I think it is inappropriate and misleading for a serious political party to behave that way,” said Will Moy.

“And it’s surprising as well. Why would a self-respecting political party choose to impersonate something else to put its campaign messages out there?”

The latest criticism of the Conservatives for dishonesty comes after the prime minister was jeered in the debate with Jeremy Corbyn when he said he thought the truth mattered.

Earlier in the campaign, there was a similar outcry when the party doctored a video to portray a senior Labour figure stumbling on Brexit – and then claimed it had merely been shortened.

David Gauke, the former Tory Treasury minister, now running as an independent, said the deception “would not have happened under Theresa May or David Cameron”.

He blamed “the Dominic Cummings culture” – and pointed out that, on the issue of trust “the prime minister was being laughed at”.

Put on the spot, Mr Raab claimed his party’s official Twitter account could be an “instant rebuttal mechanism” and that the change was to “make it clear that we’re holding Labour to account”.

Asked whether it was misleading, he argued that “no one for a split second would have been fooled” by the change.

And, pressed further, Mr Raab told BBC Breakfast: “I knock on doors every day... no one gives a toss about the social media cut and thrust. What they care about is the substance of the issues.”

Mr Moy criticised Twitter for failing to act to prevent voters being deceived during the debate, saying: “They could have forcibly renamed the account.”

Twitter warned the Tories not to repeat the stunt, saying: “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 account, usually used for press releases, normally bears the Conservative Party’s logo and branding as the account of the “Official Conservative Party Press Office”.

However, as the debate started, Tory staffers replaced the party’s logo with a purple tick, and changed the description to tell people the account was “fact checking Labour from CCHQ”.

Among supposed “facts” tweeted out were claims that Mr Johnson has negotiated a “great new deal”, that he has “kept his promises on Brexit” – and that Mr Corbyn’s assertion there will be no deal between his party and the SNP is a “lie”.

At the debate’s end, the account declared Boris Johnson the “clear winner” under the heading “factcheckUK verdict”. The rebrand was reversed 20 minutes later.

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