Concern about Russian influence in British politics has intensified as it emerged that more than 400 fake Twitter accounts believed to be run from St Petersburg published posts about Brexit.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh identified 419 accounts operating from the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) attempting to influence UK politics out of 2,752 accounts suspended by Twitter in the US.
One of the accounts run from the Kremlin-linked operation attempted to stir anti-Islamic sentiment during the Westminster Bridge terror attack in March in a bogus post claiming a Muslim woman ignored victims – a claim that was highlighted by mainstream media outlets including Mail Online and the Sun.
For days after, the tweeter was gleefully sharing press clippings. “Wow … I’m on the Daily Mail front page! Thank you British libs! You’re making me famous,” he said, referring to an article that appeared on Mail Online and which still bore the tweet at the time of writing.
A day later, he tweeted: “I’m on The Sun! Thank you again, British libs! Now I’m even more famous!”
Damian Collins, the chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, which is investigating fake news, said the Russian agency appeared to be attempting to divide society and destabilise politics.