Former Chief Technology Officer for Leave campaign found to be placing Facebook ads pretending to be from Green Party

  • Words by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

He hosts parties at home with Conservative Cabinet Ministers, was Chief Technology Officer for the Leave campaign and, in an apparent change of direction, has been placing Facebook adverts pretending to be from the Green Party.

When ITV News caught up with Thomas Borwick in Westminster on Wednesday, he had nothing to say about why he’s promoting the Green Party

It is an unusual turn of events for someone with long-standing Conservative leanings. Unsurprisingly the Green Party are upset and question the motivation behind the advertising.

Chris Williams, head of elections at the Green Party, said: "We have not had any communication with 3rd Party Limited. We have no knowledge of the organisation or of its aims.

"Any Green Party adverts are always clearly labelled as paid for by the party as per Facebook rules. We would always encourage voters to check the source of any information they are receiving due to the large amount of disinformation currently circulating the web."

Borwick placed the adverts through his company 3rd Party Ltd. They target voters in Cambridge, Bath, Brighton, Southampton, Plymouth, Sheffield, Manchester and Oxford and link through to Green Party websites in these areas.

The Facebook Ad library says £3,413 was spent “by the donors to 3rd Party Ltd”. It does not say who the donors are. More than a quarter of a million page impressions were generated by the ads.

Conversely Mr Borwick has also been spending money on “Save Brexit” adverts. The numbers are smaller with just £370 spent and 115 thousand impressions.

Thomas Borwick, campaigned for the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum. Credit: PA

One theory behind the activity is that it’s designed to split the Remain vote in targeted areas and give the Conservative candidates a greater chance of winning. In Plymouth it potentially makes sense, but in Oxford it’s less likely. Another possibility is it’s a simple distraction designed to draw attention away from Conservative policy.

We have asked Mr Borwick and 3rd Party Ltd for a full explanation and we are waiting for a reply.

Their website describes the two campaigns as “projects we are working on behalf of our clients”. It does not say who the clients are.

Thomas Borwick had nothing to say about why he’s promoting the Green Party. Credit: ITV News

It provides some information on their activity describing the Green campaign as: “Our first project, run on behalf of a donor who wants to encourage voters to support parties and candidates that pledge to look after the environment”.

As for the Brexit work it is: “A campaign to Save Brexit by calling on voters to support only candidates who will respect the result of the 2016 referendum”

Their website claims that 3rd Party Ltd is registered with the Electoral Commission. At the time of writing ITV News understands that although they have applied their registration has not yet been confirmed.

What’s in it for them?

Now it’s time to go a little deeper….

One of the peculiar things about the adverts is that while they ultimately link to the Green Party some of them also take a quick detour via Borwick’s company ‘3rd Party Ltd’.

A stop at a sort of intermediate page that appears to serve no purpose other than to provide a link to the Greens. Why?

The clue is in the URL (link). It contains bits that allow ‘3rd Party Ltd’ to understand where the person clicking has come from using Google Analytics tracking.

For some, as yet unclear, reason it gives Borwick the chance to harvest data. It’s all about the data.

Borwick still hasn’t responded to our requests for an interview and so we don’t know who he is acting for but we can tell that there is something else beyond his secret client’s claim to support the environment.