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Reddit Links UK-US Trade Talk Leak to Russian Influence Campaign

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Earlier in the week, details about UK-US trade talk were leaked on Reddit. After an investigation, Reddit has linked account activity involved with the leak during the ongoing UK election campaign to a suspected Russian political influence operation. the social network suspects that Russian operatives are behind the leak of sensitive trade data likely with the intention of impacting the UK’s General Election campaign.

The UK has been politically deadlocked since mid-2016 over how to implement the result of the referendum to leave the European Union. The minority Conservative government has struggled to negotiate a Brexit deal that parliament backs. Another hung parliament or minority government would likely result in continued uncertainty.

In a post discussing the issue, Reddit wrote: “We were recently made aware of a post on Reddit that included leaked documents from the UK. We investigated this account and the accounts connected to it, and today we believe this was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia. Earlier this year Facebook discovered a Russian campaign on its platform, which was further analyzed by the Atlantic Council and dubbed “Secondary Infektion.” Suspect accounts on Reddit were recently reported to us, along with indicators from law enforcement, and we were able to confirm that they did indeed show a pattern of coordination. We were then able to use these accounts to identify additional suspect accounts that were part of the campaign on Reddit. This group provides us with important attribution for the recent posting of the leaked UK documents, as well as insights into how adversaries are adapting their tactics.”

Reddit said that an account called u/Gregorio originally posted the leaked trade talks document. Later a second account, Ostermann, reposted it. The platform also found a “pocket of accounts” that worked together to manipulate votes on the original post in an attempt to amplify it. However, the leak gained little attention on Reddit, as per the company. As a result of the investigation, Reddit says it has banned 1 subreddit and 61 accounts — under policies against vote manipulation and misuse of its platform.

These efforts by Reddit proved fruitless as the opposition Labor Party got hold of the leak and made it into a major campaign issue, claiming the 451-page document shows the Conservative party, led by Boris Johnson, is plotting to sell off the country’s free-at-the-point-of-use National Health Service (NHS) to US private health insurance firms and drug companies.


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