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ABC oversteps Russian Interference claims

Darren Grimes, a GB News presenter, has been caught up posting word for word quotes that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation assessed were Russian Bots.

Darren Grimes on Twitter

Last week, in the lead-up to the UK election, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) published a research report on pro-Russian accounts allegedly interfering in the UK election. 

The report highlighted damning comments and posts by anonymous Facebook accounts that are clearly pro-Russian. However, there are significant gaps in their analysis, raising questions about why this report was conducted by the Australian tax-funded media. The report sparked a waive of UK commentaros supporting the major parties to link Uk Reform agenda with a Pro-Russian brush.

A major reason for the uncertainty surrounding the claim of Russian interference is that Darren Grimes, a GB News presenter, published on his Twitter profile the exact same picture and quotation, word for word, as one of the alleged 'Russian' accounts.

Darren Grimes is a pro-UK Reform British media personality who has expressed pro-Ukraine support on numerous occasions. This similarity in content raises doubts about the conclusion of Russian interference. Notably, the typical behavior of bot farms involves flooding social media with similar comments from numerous accounts with low follower counts, which does not match the observed activity by Grimes.

There is a plausible alternative explanation: UK Reform may have outsourced these political influence tasks to third parties, possibly involving contractors in Nigeria. It is conceivable that a single Fiverr contractor, paying for ads in Nigerian currency, is responsible for the content, rather than a coordinated Russian effort.

The ABC report acknowledges this hypothesis, stating, “The ABC has been able to link these seemingly disparate pages by examining the location data attached to the pages' administrators, tracking paid ads, and by analysing the pages' similar or shared content.” They also noted that the ads targeted British men over 65 years old and were paid for using Nigerian currency (NGN).

The bottom line is that many political influence operations are outsourced to cheaper markets. In 2020, Russia was caught outsourcing to Ghanaian and Nigerian operatives. This suggests that the current situation may be more complex and if we do not know who by name is behind this there is more evidence of foreign interference from Nigeria, where the ads are paid for, rather than direct Russian interference.

A critical step to clarify this situation would be for Darren Grimes to disclose who manages his social media accounts or which group chat he pulled the picture and quote from. Is it the same Fiverr contractor?

Our analysis of Darren Grimes' tweet about immigration, using our AI tool 5th Column trained to assess disinformation, found that the engagement was primarily from real people rather than bots. For comparison, Andrew Tate regularly has 60% of his engagement flagged as bots, while Grimes has only 20%.

5th Column comparison on bot traffic of Tate v Grimes

In conclusion, while the ABC's report raises important points, the evidence suggests a more complex picture involving outsourced political influence operations rather than direct Russian interference. The real issue is that social media platforms are still allowing political speech from anonymous accounts operated by third parties in foreign countries.

5th collumn Tweet Analysis of Darren Grimes

I am sure that this story goes deeper. If you have any leads feel free to email us at [email protected]