Report: Russia is using social media to influence European Parliamentary elections

A new report is out claiming that Russian bad actors are increasingly pouring misinformation through social media channels with a clear goal to influence the upcoming European Parliamentary elections.

Bad actors are reportedly amplifying their efforts to sow political discord in the European Union ahead of its Parliamentary elections, according to research done by SafeGuard Cyber, a risk protection company focused on social media.

Pointing its finger at Russia, the report says state and non-state actors are ramping up misinformation campaigns directed at EU member states to shape public perception and influence European Parliamentary elections taking place later this month.

Over a ten-day period in March, researchers identified 6,700 bad actors who posted and amplified enough divisive digital content to reach over 241 million users, nearly half the population of the EU.

“SafeGuard Cyber’s report also provides evidence that Russia is behind these misinformation campaigns, discovered by tracking bots, trolls and other malicious parties, referred to as ‘bad actors,’ against 52 risk signatures as part of the company’s machine learning threat detection tool,” reads the press release.

Seeking to demonstrate a connection between said campaigns and real-world events, the paper offers an example involving a forward-looking article published by French President Emanuel Macron. The day after Macron published his views on the future of Europe, bad actor activity attempting to discredit the French president increased by 79 percent, researchers say.

“The report underlines the dangers of disinformation online,” said Sir Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union, who has been leading efforts at the EU level to counter disinformation online.

“Malicious actors, whether they be state or non-state, will not hesitate to use the internet to attempt to influence and interfere in our democratic processes. We have achieved a lot in the past year in our work to counter this threat. But more remains to be done on all sides, including by the big internet platforms – it is vital we ensure the security of our elections,” added King.

In conducting their research, analysts classified bad actors as malicious, suspicious, disinformation or bot. The firm released a similar report last year, showing how bots – also allegedly operated from Russia – were being used to manipulate narratives and gain user trust through social engineering. According to the researchers, this year’s report stands as testimony that such tactics are still in place.