Fake news spread by British website and social media bots

By Damien McElroy, The National

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A fake news operation has spread hundreds of fabricated reports after establishing a bogus website named Manchester Weekly that is backed by dozens of social media accounts set up to woo prominent politicians, researchers and journalists.

An investigation by The National has found no trace of the Manchester Weekly publication in the city nor of a person who claims to be its political editor, Carmelo Cruz. The Twitter account under Cruz name was created in 2015 and has been extremely active since last year, gaining prominence from retweets, likes and co-ordinated responses from automated accounts. These are then picked up by prominent political activists based in England and elsewhere.

Kyle Orton, a researcher at the London think tank the Henry Jackson Society, has been forced to report bots targeting his work in the past. He said the tactics used by state-sponsored campaigns are similar across the board. “They try to get people who are more established or credible to buy into their material. That following then raises the price of criticising them,” he said. “And to promote their work they tend to swarm their output at the target, coming all at once on one theme.”

Read more on The National

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