16 Nov'17

Evidence suggests that Russian-controlled Twitter accounts influenced the Brexit vote


The Russian-led Twitter accounts responsible for targeting and influencing the 2016 US presidential election have also be found to have manipulated the Brexit vote WIRED report.


So far ‘139 tweets from 29 accounts’ have been linked to the Russian trolls. These tweets have been on topics such as the Brexit vote, the London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, anti-Muslim opinions in response to European terror attacks and hate speech against refugees. This evidence comes after the UK launched their own inquiry into fake news. The inquiry was launched earlier this year that aimed to investigate the ‘growing phenomenon of fake news’ that threatens democracy and undermines confidence in the media.


Damain Collins, the leader of the parliamentary inquiry into fake news stated, ‘This could just be the tip of the iceberg’.


The primary aim of the Russian-led Twitter accounts was to influence the US presidential election, however it appears that they widened their agenda to manipulate European politics and social issues.


The revelation of Russia’s influence of the EU referendum has been bought to attention the same time as researchers from University of London uncovered a network of Twitterbots that tweeted about the UK’s EU referendum ‘only to disappear from Twitter shortly after the ballot.’


Talking to Buzzfeed, Collins stated ‘this is clearly a very serious matter, and one that must be urgently clarified’. Collins revealed that he contacted Twitter for more information regarding the ‘reach of tweets, the ownership of the accounts, and who deleted the tweets.’


Twitter said that they had ‘nothing further to share’ when Buzzfeed asked whether they were aware of the botnet activity at the time of Brexit.


The UK government are not only investigating Russian-controlled Twitter accounts, but they are also investigating Russian-purchased Facebook. Reuters’s article about the inquiry included a letter from Collins to Zuckerberg. In this letter Collins stated, ‘Part of this inquiry will focus on the role of foreign actors abusing platforms such as yours to interfere in the political discourse of other nations,’.


The UK inquiry into fake news is now waiting for further evidence and information from the social platforms.


Recently, Facebook found that 126 million Americans were exposed to Russian-bought political adverts. What will Facebook find regarding Russian-controlled adverts influencing the Brexit vote?


Image credit: ‘Fake News – Person Reading Fake News Article’ by Mike MacKenzie on Flickr. Licensed by CC BY 2.0