Russian "influenced" news outlet Peace Data influenced voters in UK and USA, says Graphika report

Posing as an independent news outlet Peace Data has been condemned by Facebook as an instrument of Russian fake news, propagating an anti-Western agenda, targeting conspiracy theorists and left-wing voters in the UK and United States.

The organisation claims its "goal is to shed light on the global issues and raise awareness about corruption, environmental crisis, abuse of power, armed conflicts, activism, and human rights."

The website operated 13 Facebook accounts and two pages, which were set up in May and suspended on Monday for using fake identities and other forms of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” Facebook said.

The company said its investigation “found links to individuals associated with past activity by the Russian Internet Research Agency”, a St Petersburg-based company which U.S. intelligence officials say was central to Russian efforts to sway the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter, meanwhile, said it had suspended five accounts "for platform manipulation that we can reliably attribute to Russian state actors".

Investigators at social media analytics firm Graphika studied the operation and said Peace Data predominately targeted progressive and left-wing groups in the United States and Britain, but also posted about events in other countries including Algeria and Egypt.

Graphika said in a report published in August that the website pushed messages critical of right-wing voices and the centre left, and in the United States "paid particular attention to racial and political tensions", including civil rights protests and criticism of President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, told Reuters “I think it’s very important that we know about this. I want people to know that Russian actors are still trying and their tactics are evolving, but I wouldn’t want people to think that this was a large, successful campaign.”

Peace Data’s website lists 22 “contributors”, mostly freelance journalists in the US and Britain. Facebook and Graphika said there was no indication the writers knew who was behind the website.

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