Govt: No Evidence Russia Meddled in UK Democratic Process

A pro-EU demonstrator holds a placard bearing an image of Russia's President Vladimir Putin, as others wave flags during a protest against Brexit, outside of the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 11, 2018. - After a rollercoaster week of Brexit rows within her government and with Brussels, …
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty

The Government has told the House of the Commons that it has not seen evidence of “successful use of disinformation” by Russia to influence the democratic process.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s July 2018 interim report “Disinformation and ‘fake news’” recommended to the Government that “plans of action” be issued in a White Paper this autumn to deal with Russia “weaponis[ing] information”.

The request was made after Prime Minister Theresa May had accused the country in November 2017 of “meddling in elections” and “weaponising information… to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions”.

However, the Government told the lower house in its written statement published Tuesday: “We want to reiterate… that the Government has not seen evidence of successful use of disinformation by foreign actors, including Russia, to influence UK democratic processes.

“But we are not being complacent and the Government is actively engaging with partners to develop robust policies to tackle this issue.”

While not referencing Brexit specifically, Remain campaigners and the political establishment have accused “Russian meddling” for the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016 — the UK’s largest ever democratic mandate.

But the Russia narrative was dealt a blow in February when it was revealed that only a “very small number of suspected Internet Research Agency-linked Twitter accounts” were identified to have links to Russia — 49, in total, representing less than 0.005 percent of accounts tweeting about Brexit which posted a combined total of 942 tweets, representing less than 0.02 percent of total tweets posted about the referendum during the campaign.

In February, Facebook told MPs conducting the “fake news” inquiry that it has also found no evidence of a coordinated attempt by Russia to influence the vote.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which called on the Government to plan for action to deal with “Russia of meddling in elections”, is chaired by Torry Remainer Damian Collins, who is also pushing for free speech restrictions on social media to stop the spread of “fake news”.

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