The Conservatives launched an advertising blitz on Facebook between 1 and 4 December, running nearly 7000 advertisements targeted at key voters and constituencies. Of these, no fewer than 88 per cent had been criticised or denounced as misleading by the independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact (and by this website and other sources).
Challenged by ITV on this, Michael Gove said “I’m not aware of any adverts that we publish that have been misleading.”
The adverts included the following claims:
The Conservatives will build 40 new hospitals (true figure three upgrades and three new builds, remainder uncosted and unachievable in next five years)
The NHS will receive an extra £34 billion, the biggest cash boost in its history (true figure £20 billion in real terms, and not a record);
Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister would cost each taxpayer an extra £2400 each year” (misleading assumptions, flawed calculations);
Conservatives in office have saved £1205 in income tax since 2010 (the real figure is £940).
As with the Conservative fake fact-checking sites, Gove is not prepared to take responsibility for his party’s efforts to mislead voters. But there are also serious questions for Facebook, whose hands-off policy on political advertising has allowed parties not just to feed lies to voters but to select those whom they most want to lie to. The Conservative Party issued the same lie about hospitals more than 5,000 times in four days via Facebook. (In fairness, the Liberal Democrats have also been criticised over misleading claims made through Facebook, as has at least one Labour candidate.) Full Fact chief executive Will Moy told me "It has never been more important for politicians to tell the truth. If they get into government by deceiving people they shouldn't be surprised if they are not trusted in power."
If you are a Facebook user, please feel free to protest against Facebook's policy of publishing political lies.
If so, write to Meta’s (formerly Facebook) Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications, at 1 Rathbone Square, London W1T 1 HQ. His name is Rt Hon Sir Nick Clegg.