Conservative disinformation and fake news

The war to win the attention of the voters in this election is being fought in the world of digital black ops.

In one well-publicised foray, the Twitter account of the Conservative campaign headquarters press office was rebranded ‘factcheckUK’ during the ITV leaders debate (19 Nov) in a cynical bid to deceive people. The account declared Johnson the winner of the face-off with Jeremy Corbyn after tweeting pro-Tory 'wins' and dubbing them Fact. The popular term for this deception is ‘fake news'.

It's not the only stunt the Tories have pulled. They've edited videos of Keir Starmer and Jess Phillips to distort the truth and even built a false Labour manifesto site to promote disinformation. The misleading digital campaign is said to be the work of two 'young guns' - New Zealanders who are not yet out of their 20s but are credited with helping to re-elect the Liberal party in Australia in May.

One would hope their efforts would backfire but it seems not. Twitter simply issued a promise to  take  “decisive corrective action” if the Conservatives pulled a similar stunt again. But, as I wrote in a letter which The Guardian published, an abuse of this scale, whereby party propaganda is presented as fact, is a serious breach of both the spirit and letter of the law.

To purport to be a politically neutral fact-checking service using a fake Twitter handle at the very moment the Prime Minister is answering questions on integrity indicates an astonishing lack of political judgment. The Foreign Secretary's response on BBC Breakfast Show  last week  (20 Nov) that 'no-one gives a toss' indicates just how much scorn the Tory party have for both the concerns of the people of this country and the rule of law. The Twitter stunt was a deliberate attempt by the national campaign HQ of a political party to mislead the public and a clear breach of electoral law.

I wrote to the regulatory body the Electoral Commission to remind them the action clearly breaches section 143 of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and asked they seek an assurance from the Tory Party they would not repeat their behaviour. The Commission's letter in reply, though swift, was disappointing in that they did not acknowledge the legal breach. They called on all parties to support campaigning transparency  and asked UK Governments to progress legislation in line with a report they submitted last year.

Not surprisingly I've had no reply at all from James Cleverly, chairman of the Tory Party, after asking him to institute an inquiry into the incident, particularly into who sanctioned this deception. The Tories don't care if they are found out and their leader, when confronted on TV, mumbles and mutters about not understanding the Twittersphere.

Just proves once again you just can't trust Johnson or his henchmen.