The UK Government has rejected a petition to prevent President Donald J. Trump from making a state visit, with a Downing Street source telling the BBC that the Prime Minister would not “undo everything” she achieved during her visit to the U.S. for the sake of making a “gesture”.
The petition, which has surpassed one million signatures, claims that Trump’s “well-documented misogyny and vulgarity disqualifies him from being received by Her Majesty the Queen” in his capacity as Head of State, although it does concede that the president should be “allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government”.
The petition has been given a profile boost by inaccurate coverage of the so-called “Muslim ban” – an executive order which increases travel restrictions on asylum seekers and seven states identified as “countries of concern” by the Obama administration. The restrictions have been introduced as interim measure while a superior vetting system is designed.
Norman Smith, BBC News Assistant Political Editor, confirmed early in the morning that Downing Street would not be cancelling the new president’s visit: “The invitation has been issued and accepted.”
No 10 reject calls to scrap Trump state visit. "The invitation has been issued and accepted."
— norman smith (@BBCNormanS) January 30, 2017
The unusually rapid growth of the petition, which was receiving around 1,000 signatures a minute at its peak, raised eyebrows on social media.
PETITION: "Prevent Donald Trump from making a state visit to UK": the bots are signing thick and fast. pic.twitter.com/sWjjnEdHxG
— BanTheBBC (@BanTheBBC) January 29, 2017
Twitter users claim to have identified a large number of signatures from outside the United Kingdom as well as hundreds by “Theresa May”, suggesting fraudulent activity.
Last year, defeated Remain campaigners launched a petition for a second referendum on whether or not Britain should leave the European Union (EU). The petition was given a high profile in the media after receiving a substantial number of signatures, but was eventually found to have been “riddled with fraudulent data”.
An analysis identified at least 39,411 signatories from Vatican City, a city-state with a permanent population of around 450, with thousands more from locations such as Antarctica and North Korea.
The BBC, which covered the petition prominently, eventually confirmed that it had been “hijacked by bots”, with users from the 4chan online message board writing scripts which had allowed individuals to sign as many as 33,000 times.