Russia used social media to target 2014 European Parliament election, evidence suggests
23 May 2019, 19:48 | Updated: 23 May 2019, 22:17
Evidence of Kremlin efforts to use social media to target the 2014 European Parliament elections have been uncovered by researchers at Cardiff University.
They tracked the activities of Twitter accounts identified by the United States as being linked to the Kremlin's Internet Research Agency (IRA).
This is the Russian organisation accused of running fake Twitter and Facebook accounts that targeted the 2016 US presidential election in support of Donald Trump.
Cardiff University found that one of the IRA accounts "appears to have been engaging in reconnaissance activities of European Parliamentary election processes in Greece in 2014".
It discovered messages sent by whoever was operating the account that included photographs from inside polling stations of ballot boxes and pictures of ballot papers.
The team also noted that by 2016 these accounts were posting messages in a number of European languages, including French, German, Italian and Estonian.
"Collectively, these IRA Twitter accounts were displaying high levels of interest in the American elections, but there were also significant levels of interest in a series of elections and democratic events across Europe in 2016," Cardiff University said in a report.
It added: "Based upon the maxim that the best guide to future behaviour is past conduct, the evidence presented suggests a strong potential for similar kinds of activities to be directed towards the 2019 European Parliamentary elections."
Professor Martin Innes, director of the Crime and Security Research Institute at the university, said the research presented in two reports "clearly evidence a sustained and wide-ranging interest in European politics from social media accounts covertly run on behalf of the Kremlin".
"By examining in forensic detail some of the tactics and techniques featuring in their historic information-influence operations, this research affords urgent insights about the future threats to the integrity of the democratic process as we approach the 2019 European elections."