How Russian bots invade elections (and Kremlin interfered in Brexit)


The last two weeks have seen Britain’s gravest secret finally break into the public domain: that Russia interfered in the Brexit referendum. The fact that such an operation happened is not surprising or even, in itself, much disputed at this point: if the United States, Germany, France, and other Western democracies were targeted, it would be odd if the UK were left alone, notes analyst Neil Barnett.

But the government remains committed to code of silence: ministers will not comment, the intelligence services are standing aside, and the police are doing nothing. There are several reasons why the British government would act in this way. Before explaining those reasons, though, it is worth setting out the series of revelations that have captured the public’s attention in recent weeks, he writes for The American Interest:

  • First came a series of pieces by Open Democracy on the strange political funding activities of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up the Conservatives in a virtual coalition government. In particular, the work focused on a £435,000 donation to the DUP by the obscure “Constitutional Research Council.” Inexplicably, most of this was spent on pro-Brexit advertising in London.
  • Next, Open Democracy ran a brilliant investigation into the Brexit donor Arron Banks by Alastair Sloan and Iain Campbell on October 19th. The article forensically examined Banks’s business dealings and concluded that he appeared to lack the wealth required to make £7m in cash donations to UKIP and the Leave.EU campaign group. Within days the Electoral Commission announced a direct investigation into Banks’s donations…
  • Meanwhile, researchers at City, University of London discovered that an army of 13,500 Twitter bots had promoted Brexit during the campaign. In response, Damian Collins MP, chairman of the culture, media and sport committee, has launched an investigation. He has also written to Twitter asking the company to share information on the bot network….RTWT

The New York Times explains (above) how Russian bots invade elections.

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