Facebook removes seven Tory ads after BBC complaint

The BBC complained that the ads on Facebook, which included edited video clips of its journalists, distorted the perception of the news service's impartiality.
The BBC complained that the ads on Facebook, which included edited video clips of its journalists, distorted the perception of the news service's impartiality. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Facebook has removed seven Conservative Party social media ads after the British Broadcasting Corp complained they distorted the perception of the news service's impartiality.

"We have removed this content following a valid intellectual property claim from the rights holder, the BBC," a Facebook spokesman said on Sunday, in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg.

One of the ads included an edited video clip of BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg saying "pointless delay to Brexit", followed by newsreader Huw Edwards stating "another Brexit delay", the Press Association reported Nov 28.

The language is similar to the central message of the Tory election campaign and the ad makes it appear that the BBC presenters are supporting the party.

The fight to govern Britain has already generated controversy on social media, Bloomberg reported.

During Prime Minister Boris Johnson's debate with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn last month, the Conservative Party's public-relations unit rebranded its Twitter page as "factcheckUK", prompting criticism that it was claiming to be verifying information independently.

Twitter warned that it would take action if the account was used for similar purposes in the future.

A spokesman for the Conservatives denied that the Facebook ads intended to create the impression that the BBC journalists were supporting the party's positions.

"This video uses contemporary news footage to remind voters of the deadlock and delay of the last three years caused by a broken Parliament that did everything it could to block Brexit. Viewers can judge for themselves but it is clear the footage was not edited in a manner that misleads or changes the reporting," the spokesman said by e-mail.

 

While Britain has strict rules governing campaigning on TV, radio and print media, they do not effectively capture online campaigning tools.

A White Paper, containing the government's thinking on the subject, was released in Britain earlier this year.

It was meant to be a prelude to Britain introducing the toughest laws in the world for regulating the Internet. However, no action followed. As a result, Britain has entered the Dec 12 general election without adequate regulatory oversight over online political campaigning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2019, with the headline 'Facebook removes seven Tory ads after BBC complaint'. Print Edition | Subscribe