The Sunday Times said an investigation it conducted in conjunction with Swansea University had identified 6,500 Russian accounts tweeting supportive messages for Labour and denigrating the Conservatives. It said that many of the accounts, masquerading under English names, were internet “bots” programmed to bombard voters with orchestrated political messages.
The Labour Party, through its spokesman, dismissed the report categorically denying that it pay for any automated bots and was not aware of any of its supporters doing so. The spokesman added that it was not aware of receiving any support from automated bots during the campaign.
The Sunday Times said it discovered overwhelming support for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn from the Russian social media accounts with nine out of 10 messages about the party supporting its campaign. Its research found that 80% of the automated accounts had been created in the weeks leading up to polling day on June 8 and were particularly active at key points in the campaign.
It said the bots retweeted publicity for Mr Corbyn’s rallies around the country, amplified criticism of Theresa May over police cuts following the Manchester Arena bombing, and on polling day itself sent messages urging Labour supporters to turn out and vote. The findings would appear to echo claims made of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election in support of Donald Trump.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock described the findings as “extremely concerning” adding that “It is absolutely unacceptable for any nation to attempt to interfere in the democratic elections of another country.”
Sources: The Sunday Times, ITV, The Sun