Russian Twitter accounts targeted UK on issues of Brexit, the refugee crisis and the general election

Russian Twitter accounts targeted UK on issues of Brexit, the refugee crisis and the general election

   March 13, 2018  
 
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Russian Twitter accounts targeted UK on issues of Brexit, the refugee crisis and the general election

New data unearthed by the Press Association sheds more light on how Twitter accounts linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency regularly tweeted about the UK.

The data shows more than 2,400 tweets about Brexit, the refugee crisis and last year's general election - as well as more mundane British issues - came from at least 154 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Kremlin-linked organisation accused of sowing disinformation and discord on social media.

Many of the messages would be simple retweets of news organisations or prominent figures, but Islamophobic and anti-European tweets were commonplace, with many painting the refugee crisis across Europe as a Muslim invasion or sowing division between communities.

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The most retweeted message came from the account of @pamela_moore13, which had garnered a large following before being exposed as linked to the Internet Research Agency.

"France is lost," reads the tweet, accompanied by a video. "#French police try to enter a muslim no-go zone. We can not allow this in America!"

Brexit vote

Although the tweet is now deleted, many copies exist sent by other accounts on Twitter.

The video shows clashes between police and rioters during the 2014 Sarcelles riots in Paris. It was retweeted more than 6,000 times.

Elsewhere, multiple accounts tweeted about #ReasonsToLeaveEU on the day of the Brexit vote, and one, @foundingson, sent a string of tweets as the UK Government triggered Article 50, beginning the official process of leaving the European Union.

"Historic day!" read one such tweet. "Congratulations, Britain! You're independent! #Brexit #Aticle50 [sic]"

An EU official who tracks Russian information campaigns on social media said the aim of the Internet Research Agency was to "weaken the West - from the top level to the lowest level".

"They are looking for divisive topics," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"In many countries it will be the migration crisis, as it will polarise the audience and make them more hysterical. So they won't listen to facts but instead listen to emotions."

The second most shared tweet was sent by @jenn_abrams, an account with a similar story to @pamela_moore13, in March 2016, three months before the Brexit vote.

"Migrant kid arrives in Europe," reads the caption, again with a video. "What a polite, peaceful young man! #RefugeesNotWelcome #ReligionsOfPeace"

The short video shows a young boy with brown skin waving and stretching his arms out before dragging his finger across his throat as he walks off screen.

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