‘Fact or Fake’: Did Russia influence the Brexit campaign on Twitter?

As Brexit throws up new twists and turns almost every day, EURACTIV’s Frédéric Simon goes over some recent allegations about Russian interference in 2016’s vote to leave the European Union.

‘Fact or Fake’ is a programme developed in partnership with France 24 as part of the weekly show Talking Europe. Watch the full show on France 24 here.

Several studies published in the UK have recently shed light on the role played by fake Twitter accounts created from Russia during the Brexit campaign.

These revelations have led British Prime Minister Theresa May to send a warning to Russia, accusing Moscow of planting fake stories in the media to influence election outcomes.

These accusations are very serious indeed. But they also need to be put in a wider perspective.

First, the majority of those fake Twitter accounts were created after the Brexit referendum. Their role in shaping the outcome of this election is therefore still unproven.

Second, the influence of Twitter and social media should not hide the influence exerted by the tabloid press, which has considerable authority in Britain and has campaigned against the European Union for many years.

Most importantly, social media platforms are probably only the tip of the iceberg. More serious suspicions relate to the funding of the pro-Brexit campaign.

According to an investigation by Open Democracy, mysterious donors based in Russia have helped finance UKIP, the leading party behind the Leave campaign.

If those accusations are confirmed, they could cast doubt on the legitimacy of the referendum result and potentially overturn the Brexit vote.