Conservatives repeat misleading social media rebranding stunt during party leader debate

Conservatives repeat misleading social media rebranding stunt during party leader debate

By: alexander smith&
June 27 2024

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Conservatives repeat misleading social media rebranding stunt during party leader debate

(Source: Conservative Party HQ Press/X/Screenshot)

During the Labour and Conservative party leader debate on June 26, 2024, the Conservative Party HQ press account on X (formerly known as Twitter) rebranded itself to Tax Check U.K., leading to criticism that it was a deliberate attempt to mislead voters into believing this content was produced by an independent organization, and not by the Conservative Party. At the time of writing, Tax Check U.K. was trending on X with 32,100 posts.

Throughout the debate, the account posted multiple claims regarding the Labour Party's tax plans, all under the Tax Check U.K. branding. It also posted memes of Labour Party members dancing in the House of Commons to music about their plans to increase taxes.

Screenshots of tax claims posted on the "Tax Check UK" X account. (Source: X/Screenshots)

taxcheck.online

The link on the profile, taxcheck.online, leads to a website with the URL https://www.labourpartymanifesto2024.com/taxcheck, misleadingly presenting itself as a Labour Party domain. However, Labour Party URLs end with .org.uk, and this is not the website of the Labour Party manifesto, which can be found here. Domain registration data from who.is shows that the website was registered on 24 May 2024. 

Screenshot 2024-06-27 at 10.30.06Screenshot of the imprint shown at the bottom of the "taxcheck.online" website. (Source: "taxcheck.online"/Screenshot)

An imprint at the bottom of the website states that it was promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party. Alan Mabbutt OBE is a senior member of the party's professional staff and serves on the Board of the Conservative Party.

Screenshots from the tax calculator from the Conservative Party's Tax Check UK. (Source: "taxcheck.online"/Screenshots)

The website claims to calculate how much extra tax an individual will pay based on their answers to seven yes-or-no questions, such as whether you receive a state pension, send a child to private school, or intend to buy a boiler. After answering each question, an image of a piggy bank grows in size. Answering "no" to each of the questions gives the result that an individual will pay an extra £2,094 in tax, a number that has been consistently repeated by Sunak throughout his campaign and has been repeatedly debunked

A link to the evidence for these figures leads to a 24-page document titled Labour's Tax Rises published on the Conservatives' website.

Fact Check U.K. incident

This is not the first time the Conservative Party has attracted criticism for rebranding its social media under the guise of other organizations. In November 2019, during party leader debates, it rebranded its then-Twitter account to "Fact Check U.K.," drawing criticism for misleading voters by impersonating a legitimate fact-checking organization. The Electoral Commission issued a statement at the time but did not take any further action.

fact check uk imgScreenshot of the @CCHQPress Twitter account from November 2019 rebranded to factcheckUK. (Source: Twitter/Waybackmachine/Screenshot)

Conservative candidate Robert Largan recently came under scrutiny for producing campaign posters that misleadingly appeared to show him as either a Labour or Reform candidate. However, due to the inclusion of an imprint at the bottom of the posters stating they were produced on behalf of the Conservative Party, he was found not to have breached Electoral Commission rules.

Logically Facts reached out to the Electoral Commission regarding the CCHQPress X account rebranding. A spokesperson told us, "When it comes to campaigning, the Commission is responsible for ensuring that campaign material by parties and campaigners includes information to identify the person or organisation which has caused it to be published. This is known as an imprint. The digital imprint regime gives voters more information about who is trying to reach them online, including campaigners and political parties. Our remit does not extend to the content or style of campaign material. This is not subject to regulation by any UK body. We have called on campaigners to fulfil their vital role responsibly and think carefully about the material they are producing. It is their responsibility to make sure the material they are creating does not mislead voters. Voters who have concerns about the source of campaign material should look for an imprint. This will tell you who has paid for and published the material and is a legal requirement."

Fact-checking agency Full Fact stated they had reached out to the Conservatives "to remove the 'Tax Check UK' rebrand of @CCHQPress" as "This misrepresents posts on the account as an impartial fact checking service."

As of publication, the @CCHQPress account retains the Tax Check UK logo but has renamed itself back to "Conservative Press."

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