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Sun, 12 July 2020

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Thousands of Russian Twitter bots 'attempted to swing general election for Jeremy Corbyn'

Thousands of Russian Twitter bots 'attempted to swing general election for Jeremy Corbyn'
2 min read

Thousands of Russian Twitter bots were used in a bid to influence the snap general election in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, new research has shown.


Some 6,500 Russian bots were pumping out pro-Corbyn messages and attacking the Conservatives in the run up to the vote last June, according to an investigation by Swansea University and The Sunday Times.

Many of the automated bots used female, English-sounding names and were identified by researchers due to a similar pattern in the usernames, as well as the speed of interaction between them.

The paper says nine out of ten bot messages about the Labour party were overwhelmingly supportive, while nine out of ten messages about the Conservatives were negative.

The study found 80% of the accounts were created in the weeks before polling day, and were used to target voters with orchestrated political messages during key points in the campaign.

They were used in the wake of the Manchester bombing to attack Theresa May for cutting police numbers, for example.

They also retweeted information about Mr Corbyn’s rallies, and blasted the media for their being too critical of the Labour leader.

Professor Oleksandr Talavera, who led the Swansea University team, warned that the findings were “only the tip of the iceberg” of the Russian general election operation.

“The samples provide evidence that Russian-language bots were used deliberately to try and influence the election in favour of Labour and against the Conservatives,” he said.

“The data represents just a small random sample and therefore the Russian-language automated bot behaviour we have observed is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg of their general election operation.”

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: “These new revelations are extremely concerning...

“It is absolutely unacceptable for any nation to attempt to interfere in the democratic elections of another country. The social media companies need to act to safeguard our democratic discourse and reveal what they know.”

But a Labour party spokesperson said that the party had no knowledge of the bots.

“Labour’s proposed crackdown on tax dodging, failed privatisation and corrupt oligarchs is opposed by both May and Putin’s conservative philosophy and their super-rich supporters,” the spokesperson said.

“The Labour party’s people-powered election campaign attracted huge levels of public support online.

"We were not aware of any from automated bots, categorically did not pay for any and are not aware of any of our supporters doing so.”

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