Nine in ten Conservative Facebook adverts carried a misleading claim last week, research finds

·News Reporter
·2-min read
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks during a question and answer session, part of a General Election campaign visit to Ferguson's Transport in Washington, England, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12. (Ben Stansall/Pool Photo via AP)
Boris Johnson at an election campaign visit in Washington, England, on Monday. (Ben Stansall/Pool Photo via AP)

Misleading claims have been a staple of this election, and this week has been no exception as accusations flew over hospital photos and encounters with activists.

From fake fact-checkers to questions over leaked documents, suggestions of disinformation have been rife.

Now research by nonprofit First Draft has also revealed that nearly every online advert posted by the Conservatives on Facebook last week carried a claim deemed misleading by the fact-checker Full Fact.

The Tories’ official party Facebook page created more than 6,000 adverts between 1 December and 4 December – and 88% of them promoted figures that are challenged by Full Fact.

CCHQ rebranded itself as FactcheckUK during a debate.
The Tory campaign HQ rebranded itself as 'FactcheckUK' during a TV election debate.

The misleading claims in the Conservative adverts include 5,132 promoting the message that 40 new hospitals will be built, despite only six new builds having been announced.

Full Fact, which recently told Yahoo News UK that misleading tactics are currently being used at a scale never seen before in a general election, found the claim in the Tory manifesto but noted it had not been costed.

544 of the adverts said the party would recruit 50,000 nurses, but that figure includes nearly 20,000 who are already in the NHS.

Read more from Yahoo:

Fake news used at a scale 'never seen before' in an election campaign

How to spot fake news this election

Here’s why fake news spreads so quickly (even when it’s not believable)

Meanwhile, a link in two ads posted 1,705 times said the NHS would get an extra £34 billion, the “biggest cash boost in history”, under Boris Johnson, but Full Fact has said that if adjusted for inflation there was a larger spend between 2004 and 2010.

A Tory claim that a Corbyn government would result in £1.2 trillion in spending and an extra £2,400 in tax each year was promoted 4,028 times in different adverts, but Full Fact said the calculations “have a number of flaws” behind them.

In this photo illustration a Twitter account of Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the leader of the Conservative Party seen on a computer and a mobilephone. As of 8 December 2019, Boris Johnson has 1.27m followers on his Twitter account. Britons go to the polls on 12 December in a General Election. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, has been a key battleground. (Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

And the claim in 219 adverts that people had saved £1,205 a year due to a tax cut is inaccurate, Full Fact found, because it drops to £940 when adjusted for inflation.

First Draft compiled its research by downloading all 6,749 adverts from the Tories between 1 December and 4 December, and discovered that 5,952 (88%) carried a claim Full Fact labelled misleading, either in the advert directly or a via a link to another webpage.

Will Moy, chief executive of Full Fact, told First Draft: “Full Fact plays an independent role in Facebook’s Third Party Fact Checking programme, which doesn’t currently cover ads or content from political figures or parties.

“But Full Fact continues to regularly scrutinise claims by all political parties, including manifestos and debates during this election campaign.”

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