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Tory minister undermines his own party’s social media strategy after row over fake fact-check Twitter account

Damian Wilson
Damian Wilson
is a UK journalist, ex-Fleet Street editor, financial industry consultant and political communications special advisor in the UK and EU.
Tory minister undermines his own party’s social media strategy after row over fake fact-check Twitter account
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab dismisses the row over Tory fake fact-checking account used in TV leaders debate, saying “no one gives a toss” about the social media cut and thrust, but his Party’s actions tell a different story.

The Conservative Party have clearly learnt a thing or two about the darker side of Twitter since the last general election in 2017 but their much-trumpeted social media team might have overstepped the mark this time. They demonstrated last night that they know how to disguise a Twitter profile and pump out nonsense as hard facts. 

They also demonstrated their hypocrisy in doing so after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, told a breakfast TV interviewer that the general public could "not give a toss" about the social media cut and thrust. If that is true, why pull this stunt?

Strange that he would say that after having Twitter shut down two fake accounts – @DominicRab and @BrexitRaab – earlier this year, because the Department for Exiting the EU didn’t like what they were doing.

Is that someone not giving a toss?

And then there is the attention given to his own Twitter account, with a healthy 94,600 followers who have been privy to his almost 3,000 posts so far.

Is that someone not giving a toss?

Raab went on in his interview to claim that no one would have been fooled for a second by the change of temporary Twitter account name from CCHQPress to factcheckUK, even though the usual avatar had also been replaced while the Tory Party flunkies tweeted attacks on Labour and big-upped their boss during the televised leadership debate.

No sooner where those words out of Raab’s mouth than rival politicians and internet dummies from all corners put their hands up and declared that they had been duped.

One Lib Dem MP, Layla Moran (51,600 followers, 10,900 tweets) said people could easily have mistaken the Conservative account for the independent fact-checker it was claiming to be and the Conservatives should be reported to the Electoral Commission.

Labour MP David Lammy (586,400 followers, more than 20,000 tweets) said he considered the name change a “blatant attempt to deceive the public” and agreed that the Electoral Commission should be alerted.

Seizing on an opportunity for a bit of Russia-baiting, Lammy also tweeted, “It's not a fact check service, it's a disinformation machine that would make Vladimir Putin blush.”

Naturally, Twitter – that online meeting room of loonies, flat-earthers, trolls,bullies, narcissists and the very dim – then took a stand, trying to act all grown up by puffing its chest out, wagging its finger and warning of “decisive corrective action” if the stunt was repeated. As if Twitter has any real power to do more than simply shut down an account.

Having been exposed as a compliant host for thousands of fake bot accounts during the 2017 UK general election and the Brexit referendum before that, it is an intrinsically flawed platform that is open to exploitation and abuse by anyone who can use a smartphone.

Twitter should be focusing on improving the performance of their platform, not refereeing political spats at election time – leaving the teams of geeks at CCHQ and their counterparts at Labour headquarters to continue their hard work that, apparently, no one gives a toss about.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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