Latest in Gear

Image credit:

Russian Twitter accounts tried to influence the UK's EU departure

Russia's social media disruption campaign was far-reaching.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 12, 2017
573 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

NORRIE3699 via Getty Images

Russia's attempt to influence Western politics through Twitter certainly wasn't limited to the 2016 American elections. Wired and New Knowledge have combed through the Russia-linked accounts provided to US politicians, and it identified at least 29 bogus users that backed the UK's European Union exit (aka Brexit). The accounts used Brexit-related hashtags, stirred Islamophobic sentiment and used racist anti-refugee language. These accounts weren't ignored, either. Combined, they had 268,643 followers and got some posts shared hundreds of times.

The tweets directly tied to Brexit were posted just after the vote in June 2016, but they're characterized as a "snapshot" that doesn't necessarily reflect the entire situation. Some of the ostensibly American accounts were unusually obsessed with Europe beforehand, however, and frequently posted similar anti-immigration and anti-Islam messages in response to terrorist attacks. A previous BuzzFeed study had identified 13,000 Twitter bots that supported leaving the EU, but it's not clear how many of those were tied to Russia.

The discovery isn't entirely shocking: if Russia was using Twitter bots to skew American sentiment, it wouldn't take much effort to do the same for Britons. Still, findings like this could be crucial to an official investigation into Russia's influence over Brexit. They also underscore how easy it can be to mount a modern propaganda campaign -- you can target audiences around the world with minimal effort.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
573 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Google's Pixel 5 includes 5G and an ultrawide camera for $699

Google's Pixel 5 includes 5G and an ultrawide camera for $699

View
Google Chromecast (2020) hands-on: A helpful new remote and Assistant

Google Chromecast (2020) hands-on: A helpful new remote and Assistant

View
Google TV is back, and it runs on Android TV

Google TV is back, and it runs on Android TV

View
The Morning After: Our first impressions of the Xbox Series X

The Morning After: Our first impressions of the Xbox Series X

View
Google's $499 Pixel 4a 5G is almost as powerful as the Pixel 5

Google's $499 Pixel 4a 5G is almost as powerful as the Pixel 5

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr