Conservative Party criticised for altering BBC headline in Facebook advert

Posted On: 
14th September 2019

The Conservatives have been accused of running “misleading” adverts on Facebook after appearing to manipulate a BBC article on Boris Johnson’s education policy.

The BBC article on government education spending was first published on August 30, 2019
Credit: 
PA

The advert, paid for by the party, featured a link to a BBC article on school funding, displaying the headline as “£14 billion pound cash boost for schools”.

The original headline, however, read: “School spending: Multi-billion pound cash boost announced”.

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The adverts were also accompanied by variations of the same text, which claimed the party was “levelling up per pupil funding across the country.”

According to Full Fact, variations of the advert had been viewed over 510,000 times in total in the last 10 days.

They wrote: "While it’s not technically inaccurate, it may well be misleading—because this isn’t how people normally talk about spending increases, it makes the figure seem comparatively much larger than it really is."

The Conservative Party ran the advert with the claim several times between September 2 and September 9.

BBC journalist Sean Coughlan shared an image of the advert on Twitter. 

The use of the £14 billion figure in the altered headline has been criticised as it relates to the combined spending increase over several years, rather than a yearly increase.

Standard practice when discussing spending increases is to talk about them on a yearly basis, whereas the £14 billion figure adds together all spending increased between now and 2022/23.

The figure adds together all spending increased between now and 2022/23, whereas the standard practice for discussing spending changes is to talk about them on a yearly basis.

The article linked in the advert also claimed that the £14 billion figure wasn’t entirely accurate.

Robert Cuffe, the BBC’s head of statistics, wrote that the figure was “not normally how we talk about spending increases” and would “make the government seem more generous than it is in fact being.”

A Conservative spokesperson told the BBC: “It was not our intention to misrepresent by using this headline copy with the news link, where the BBC’s £7bn figure is clearly displayed, but we are reviewing how our advert headlines match accompanying links.”