Russian Twitter accounts focused on Brexit, research reveals

Many of the tweets pushed voters to leave the EU, though some favoured Remain. Credit: PA

Some 45,000 messages about Brexit were posted from Russian Twitter accounts in 48 hours during last year's referendum, a report in The Times reveals.

Researchers at Swansea University and the University of California, Berkeley found 150,000 accounts based in Russia that switched their focus to Brexit around the vote, with many of the messages coming from automated accounts, or bots.

The newspaper said many of the tweets pushed voters to leave the EU, though some favoured Remain.

Meanwhile, research from the University of Edinburgh has revealed more than 400 Twitter accounts run from a Russian propaganda unit posted tweets about Brexit.

Of the 2,752 accounts suspended by Twitter in the US, 419 accounts operating from the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) tried to influence UK politics, data scientists said.

Speaking to the Guardian, Professor Laura Cram said the 419 accounts tweeted about Brexit 3,468 times, though mostly after the 2016 vote had taken place.

Commenting on the tweets, she called the content "quite chaotic and it seems to be aimed at wider disruption. There's not an absolutely clear thrust. We pick up a lot on refugees and immigration".

Twitter responded to the revelation, telling the newspaper the company "recognises that the integrity of the election process itself is integral to the health of a democracy.”

“As such, we will continue to support formal investigations by government authorities into election interference as required," the spokesperson added.