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UK PM Johnson's Conservatives criticised for 'factcheck' Twitter handle switch

LONDON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party was criticised by fact checkers and the opposition Labour Party on Tuesday for changing the name of one of its Twitter accounts to make it look like a fact checking service during a televised election debate.

The Conservative Campaign Headquarters press office account, followed by nearly 76,000 users, changed its name to "factcheckUK" from its usual 'CCHQPress' and switched its avatar to a white tick against a purple background.

The account description was "Fact Checking Labour from CCHQ" throughout an hour long debate between Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

It tweeted graphics supporting statements from Johnson as 'True' and criticised others from Corbyn. The account reverted to its regular Conservative Party branding shortly after the debate finished.

Full Fact, a fact checking charity said: "It is inappropriate and misleading for the Conservative press office to rename their Twitter account ‘factcheckUK’ during this debate. Please do not mistake it for an independent fact checking service."

The Labour Party said it was a "scam" that showed the Conservatives could not be trusted in government.

Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly defended the move. "We made it absolutely clear it is a Conservative Party website ... checking the claims" of Corbyn. (Reporting by William James and Kylie MacLellan; editing by Grant McCool)