A misleading video posted online by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party Tuesday highlights the challenges voters face as they try to discern fact from fiction in the lead-up to the United Kingdom’s historic December election.
The video made a spokesperson from the rival Labour Party appear unable to explain his party’s Brexit policy, and came as Facebook faces increasing scrutiny for its unwillingness to fact-check political ads on its platform.
On Tuesday, Conservatives posted on both Twitter and Facebook an edited clip of an interview from the television show Good Morning Britain, that appeared to show Labour’s Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer faltering for words and unable to answer a question from the show’s host Piers Morgan.
In reality, Starmer answered the question immediately in the live interview, BBC journalist Daniel Sandford pointed out on Twitter and Morgan confirmed.
“So this happened,” Sandford tweeted. “They edited it to add on the last shot in which Keir Starmer looks stumped. But that didn’t happen.
Morgan himself then replied to Sandford, agreeing with the BBC reporter and adding, “The way this has been edited is misleading and unfair to Keir Starmer.”
Several hours later, the Conservative Party’s Press Office retweeted an unedited version of the interview from the Good Morning Britain account, noting that “there have been some enquiries about the veracity of Keir Starmer’s interview this morning.”
But it did not acknowledge the discrepancy between the party’s edited version of the interview and the real thing.
The Conservative Party did not respond to CNN’s request for an explanation. Its original tweet was still online two hours after it tweeted the more accurate video. The party also retweeted at least half a dozen other people, including at least one government minister, who had shared the misleading video.
CNN has reached out to Keir Starmer’s office for comment.
Facebook confirmed to CNN last week that a controversial policy allowing politicians to run false ads on its platform would also apply to political parties in Britain and the thousands of candidates running in the country’s December 12th election.
It did not appear Tuesday that the Starmer post ran as an ad on Facebook — but had the Conservatives tried to amplify the video through its ad platform, it likely would have been approved.
Damian Collins, a Conservative member of Parliament who has been spearheading parliamentary hearings on Facebook, told CNN Friday: “People shouldn’t be able to spread disinformation during election campaigns just because they are paying Facebook to do so.”
The same policy in the United States has prompted an outcry from the Democratic Party, Congress, and even some of Facebook’s own employees.