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Facebook Removes Seven U.K. Tory Party Ads After BBC Complaint

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the VivaTech fair in Paris, France, 24 May 2018. EPA-EFE/ETIENNE LAURENT

Facebook Inc. removed seven Conservative Party social media ads on Sunday 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 in an emailed response to questions.

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. 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 “factcheck U.K.,” prompting criticism that it was claiming to be verifying information independently. Twitter Inc. warned 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 email.

–With assistance from Jessica Shankleman.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Mathew Carr in London at [email protected];
Siraj Datoo in Singapore at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Reed Landberg at [email protected]

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