In a world where fake news is destroying trust in what is real and what is not, degrading our political discourse and damaging democracy, one would have thought that all honourable politicians would do their utmost to resist this sinister trend.
Two weeks ago, The Scotsman urged all parties uphold basic standards of truth, following a Tory election video apparently edited to show Keir Starmer unable to answer a question about Brexit that he, in fact, did answer.
Today we feel compelled to do so again.
The reason is that the Conservative campaign’s official Twitter account was renamed “factcheckUK” during the TV debate between Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Not only that, but the party blue tree logo and usual picture were removed and replaced with a purple tick. It did say it was “fact checking Labour from CCHQ” and the account name was also @CCHQPress, which for those who do not know, stands for Conservative Campaign Headquarters.
We suspect many members of the public would not know this, particularly those who are not Conservative members. Importantly, the official Twitter account for the Conservative campaign has a “blue tick”, which is the social media platform’s main way of fighting back against fakery by signalling bona fide accounts. This was retained by the renamed account, giving it added credibility.
Under Twitter’s rules, renaming a blue-tick account in order to deceive people is grounds for removal of the tick. Twitter issued an unequivocal statement: “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.”
Will Moy, of real fact-checking agency Full Fact, was equally forthright, saying “pretending to provide independent fact-checking information when what you are doing is providing party lines, many of which were not accurate, is doing voters a disservice”.
The response by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was dismissive. “No one gives a toss about social media cut and thrust,” he told the BBC, claiming people could “see it’s from CCHQ”.
It is utterly astonishing and extremely worrying that this is becoming a serious election issue. If politics descends into a battle of deception and half-truths, we are lost.