Revealed: toxic tweets of Putin’s pro-Brexit troll factory
Deluge of messages that mocked Remainers came from secret cyber-army
CYNICALLY mocking the warnings of the Remain campaign, these are the messages posted on the day of the Brexit referendum and seen by many thousands of people as the UK decided its future.
But what voters won’t have known is the posts, which may have influenced the result, came from Vladimir Putin’s so-called ‘troll factory’.
Made to appear to originate in the UK or EU countries, the posts have only now been traced to the secret St Petersburg operation exposed by The Mail on Sunday last week.
A whistleblower, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of Kremlin reprisals, said: ‘We were active on social media, including Twitter, mainly posting on contentious topics obsessing the Brits.’
On the day of the referendum, one account called @PeterMagLob, pretending to be German, began tweeting up to 20 times an hour in English about the vote.
The Twitter accounts were among more than 2,700 handed over to the US House Intelligence Committee as being linked to the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin’s troll army, according to CNN.
Using hashtags such as #EUref, #BrexitInOut, #BritainInOut, and #BrexitOrNot, the messages were all pro-Brexit.
One message – mocking t he Remain campaign’s warnings of the consequences of leaving the EU – showed a woman next to a brokendown car with the slogan: ‘If you Brexit your car won’t start in the morning.’ Another showed David Cameron with the comment: ‘That’s hilarious! They actually believe the scaremongering c**p we’ve been putting out?’ Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee has already written to social media giants asking for details of Russian accounts which posted about UK politics.
Next year, a special session of the committee will be held in Washingt on DC t o question Facebook, Twitter and Google on fake news.
Last night Mr Collins said: ‘This is the tip of the iceberg. From even the limited research that has been done, it is clear Russian organisations sought to target and influence voters during the Brexit debate.
‘These are early days in understanding the scale of this threat to our democracy, but it is vital that we do. That’s why I’ve asked Facebook and Twitter to give full disclosure in UK elections and the Brexit referendum to the DCMS committee inquiry into fake news.’
Twitter declined to comment on specific accounts, but said of the MPs’ request: ‘Twitter recognises that the integrity of the election process itself is integral to the health of a democracy. As such, we will continue to support formal investigations by authorities into election interference.’
RUSSIAN INFLUENCE: Memes like those above could have swayed voters