LONDON (AP) — The social media platform Reddit says a dossier leaked days before Britain’s general election is linked to a Russian campaign, banning 61 accounts suspected of violating policies against vote manipulation.
Reddit said Friday the suspect accounts shared the same pattern of activity as a Russian operation dubbed “Secondary Infektion” uncovered earlier this year. The platform investigated the leak after the documents regarding a post-Brexit trade deal became part of campaigning for Thursday’s election, which will determine the country’s future relationship with the European Union.
Reddit said it believed the documents were leaked as “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.”
“We were able to confirm that they did indeed show a pattern of coordination,” it said in a statement.
Britain’s main opposition party has argued the documents prove that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is seeking a deal with the United States after Brexit that would drive up the cost of drugs and imperil the state-funded National Health Service.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said the 451 pages of documents, which covered six rounds of preliminary talks between U.S. and U.K. negotiators, proved Johnson was planning to put the NHS “up for sale” in trade talks.
Johnson — who was not prime minister for most of the two-year period when the talks took place — rejected Corbyn’s NHS claims. But the government has not challenged the authenticity of the documents.
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan told the BBC that the government is “looking for and monitoring” anything that might suggest interference in the election.
“I understand from what was being put on that website, those who seem to know about these things say that it seems to have all the hallmarks of some form of interference,” Morgan said. “And if that is the case, that obviously is extremely serious.”
The specter that Russia has meddled in Britain’s electoral process has been raised before. Critics have questioned the British government’s failure to release a Parliament intelligence committee report on previous Russian interference in the country’s politics. They say it should have been made public before Thursday’s vote, which will elect all 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons.
The Times of London reported, without saying how it got the information, that the report concluded that Russian interference may have affected the 2016 referendum on Britain’s departure from the European Union, though the impact is “unquantifiable.”
The committee said British intelligence services failed to devote enough resources to countering the threat and highlighted the impact of articles posted by Russian news sites that were widely disseminated on social media, the newspaper reported.