Foreign Secretary says ‘No one gives a toss’ after Tories accused of misleading public on Twitter

The Tories were criticised for changing its Twitter account to 'factcheckUK' during the leaders' debate (Twitter)
The Tories were criticised for changing the name of an official Twitter account to 'factcheckUK' during the leaders' debate (Twitter)

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has insisted that “no one gives a toss” that the Tories rebranded an official account to look like a fact-checking service during Tuesday night’s TV debate.

Mr Raab said it was part of the Conservative Party's "instant rebuttal" mechanism for challenging the "nonsense" put out by Labour on the NHS and other issues during the general election campaign.

He 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 Raab’s defence came as Twitter warned that any further attempts to mislead the public on its platform during the election would lead to action by the social media giant.

A spokeswoman 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.”

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The Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) press office account was renamed "factcheckUK" during the debate, offering commentary on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's statements and retweeting messages supporting Boris Johnson.

The @CCHQpress account is verified by Twitter, displaying a blue tick that is intended to denote that a user is genuine.

Independent fact-checking charity Full Fact also hit out at the change, tweeting: "It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their twitter account 'factcheckUK' during this debate. Please do not mistake it for an independent fact checking service such as @FullFact, @FactCheck or @FactCheckNI."

The Electoral Commission called on all campaigners to "undertake their vital role responsibly and to support campaigning transparency".

Mr Raab refused to apologise for the temporary rebrand, telling BBC Breakfast: "We want to make it clear that we are holding Labour to account for the nonsense that they systematically and serially put out in relation to Conservatives.

"It was pegged to the CCHQ account. No one who looked at it for more than a split-second would have been fooled.”

He added: "Of course there is huge amounts of scepticism about the claims of all the politicians.

SALFORD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: (AVAILABLE FOR EDITORIAL USE UNTIL DECEMBER 19, 2019) In this handout image supplied by ITV, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn answer questions during the ITV Leaders Debate at Media Centre on November 19, 2019 in Salford, England. This evening ITV hosted the first televised head-to-head Leader’s debate of this election campaign. Leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn faced Conservative party leader, Boris Johnson after the SNP and Liberal Democrats lost a court battle to be included. (Photo by Jonathan Hordle//ITV via Getty Images)
The Tory rebrand came during the first TV debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn (Getty)

"What we are not going to do is have this nonsense put around by Labour.”

Twitter has been bolstering its efforts to block misleading information during the election campaign after earlier this month launching a new tool to enable people to report deliberately misleading details about the voting process.

The platform has also announced a ban on political adverts.