The Conservative Party has been sharply criticised by a UK fact-checking agency after it rebranded one of its Twitter accounts.
The @CCHQPress account – the Tory press office – was rebranded as “factcheckUK” for Tuesday’s live TV debate involving Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.
After the debate, the account reverted to its original branding.
Twitter is yet to comment on the change, but told the BBC it was looking into it.
Fact-checking agency FullFact said in a statement: “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.”
Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly defended the rebranding.
He told BBC Newsnight: “The Twitter handle of the CCHQ press office remained CCHQPress, so it’s clear the nature of the site.”
Mr Cleverly added the decision to rebrand the account would have been made by the party’s digital team, which he said operated within his remit.
He said he was “absolutely comfortable” with the party “calling out when the Labour Party put what they know to be complete fabrications in the public domain”.
Reacting to the decision, the Labour Party tweeted: “The Conservatives’ laughable attempt to dupe those watching the #ITVDebate by renaming their twitter account shows you can’t trust a word they say.”
The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, said the ploy was “straight out of Donald Trump or Putin’s playbook”, adding the Tories were “deliberately misleading the public”.
Twitter has policies regarding deceptive behaviour on the platform. The company said it can remove an account’s “verified” status if the account owner is said to be “intentionally misleading people on Twitter by changing one’s display name or bio”.
Other users on the platform subsequently changed their display names to mock the move. Among them, writer Charlie Brooker, who tweeted: “We have always been at war with Eastasia”, a reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.
This latest controversial move on social media comes less than a month after the Conservative Party was criticised for posting a “doctored” video involving Labour’s Sir Kier Starmer, in which the shadow Brexit secretary was made to look as if he met a question, posed by ITV’s Piers Morgan, with silence.
Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly said the video, since taken down, was meant to be “light-hearted”. The party later posted an extended version of the interview.
Full Fact, which is a charity supported by donations from the likes of Google, described the incident as “irresponsible”.