LONDON (Reuters) – The leak and distribution of classified British-U.S. trade documents online resembles a disinformation campaign uncovered this year that originated in Russia, according to experts who say it could signal foreign interference in Britain’s election.
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn holds documents as he speaks during a general election campaign event in London, Britain November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville
The opposition Labour Party said on Nov. 27 the classified documents, which first appeared online on Oct. 21, showed the ruling Conservatives were plotting to offer up the state-run National Health Service for sale in trade talks with Washington.
The NHS is much loved by Britons and has become an important issue in the Dec. 12 election, in which Labour trails the Conservatives despite cutting its lead in some opinion polls.
Researchers at Britain’s Oxford and Cardiff universities, the Atlantic Council thinktank and social media analytics firm Graphika said the way the documents were first shared online mirrored a campaign called Secondary Infektion.
Secondary Infektion uncovered by the Atlantic Council in June, used fabricated or altered documents to try to spread false narratives across at least 30 online platforms, and stemmed from a network of social media accounts which Facebook said “originated in Russia.”
“It’s on the same set of websites (as Secondary Infektion), it’s using the same types of accounts and making the same language errors. It’s either the Russian operation or someone trying hard to look like it,” said Ben Nimmo, head of investigations at Graphika.
Reuters has been unable to verify whether the documents are genuine. Labour and the British government declined immediate comment.