• Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019
  • Last Update : 10:17 am

Twitter accuses UK of misleading public in election row

  • Published at 01:49 am November 21st, 2019
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The Twitter App loads on an iPhone in this illustration photograph taken in Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 22, 2019 Reuters

There are particular concerns in Britain after years of misleading claims, broken promises and toxic arguments about the country's tortuous exit from the European Union

Twitter accused Britain's governing Conservatives on Wednesday of misleading the public by rebranding themselves as fact-checkers during a live TV election debate, fuelling concerns about trust in politics.

The Tories also drew complaints from rival parties after renaming their press office Twitter account "factcheckUK" during Prime Minister Boris Johnson's clash with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday night.

The account fired off real-time rebuttals during the prime-time debate in what the Conservative party argued was a necessary corrective to Labour's "nonsense" claims.

But a Twitter spokeswoman warned that rules were in place to "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," she said.

As in other countries, social media is proving to be one of the key battlegrounds in Britain ahead of the December 12 election, but it can also be a conduit for rumour, misdirection and "fake news."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on Wednesday warned that "we all have a responsibility to speak accurately, to challenge falsehoods when we hear them, and to be careful to separate facts from opinion."

There are particular concerns in Britain after years of misleading claims, broken promises and toxic arguments about the country's tortuous exit from the European Union.

The government has yet to publish a report into concerns of Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum vote, despite its completion months ago.

And Johnson himself has a history of lying, including in the 2016 campaign. 

He also drew criticism for refusing to acknowledge he would have to delay Brexit beyond October 31 for long after it became obvious.

For his part, Corbyn is accused of hiding his true views on Brexit and of betraying party members who accuse him of not doing enough to address anti-Semitism.

In a sign of the times, the studio audience in Tuesday's debate laughed at Corbyn when he said his Brexit position was clear, and also at Johnson when he insisted that the truth was important.