03:20 GMT29 January 2020
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    Britons took to the polls on December 12 for snap parliamentary elections, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party handily defeating Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour opposition. The campaign was beset by claims from both major parties that the other side was engaged in dirty tricks.

    British politicians’ own deceptive electioneering schemes, not ‘Russian meddling’ or the threat of increasingly realistic deepfake videos, proved to be the real big problem in the recent elections in the UK, Will Moy, CEO of the independent UK-based fact-checking charity Full Fact has said.

    “From our evidence, the biggest source of disinformation for voters in the UK was from people who are candidates to become their next government,” Moy explained, speaking to ABC News on Saturday.

    According to the observer, the deceptive tactics used by candidates during the campaign were magnified by their ability to access voters via social media, which included the ability to get out personalised campaign messages depending on the target audience which have not been fact-checked, and no transparency regarding who paid for the targeted ads.

    Joe Galvin, a journalist at the Storyful social media news agency, confirmed to ABC that the other potential malicious actors whose interference and potential trouble-making schemes had been widely talked about were virtually non-existent this election season.

    Galvin noted, for example, that the fears of deepfakes of party leaders Johnson and Corbyn came to nought after it turned out that “the only people that are producing deepfakes at the moment are people [who] are warning about how terrible they are.”

    Russia, Russia, Russia!

    As for Russia, which has been relentlessly accused by many Western countries of meddling in elections all across the globe since Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 US elections, Galvin suggested that people need to look much closer to home.

    “One of the things that we’re always very cautious about is everyone looking at Russia. But actually, we should be looking at the party and political dynamics closer to home and how domestic actors are using the platforms and manipulating the systems to spread information or misinformation that’s favourable to their political stance,” he said.

    “That is more significant than foreign interference, more widespread and much harder to crack down on because obviously Facebook said it’s not going to fact-check its political ads,” Galvin warned.

    Blatant Fakes

    Galvin pointed to several efforts, particularly by the Conservative party, to spread blatant “falsehoods,” in the 2019 UK election. Among them, for example, was a “deeply dishonest” election leaflet put out by the Tories designed to look like something by the National Health Service (NHS), as well as a ‘fact-checking’ service called ‘factcheckUK’ which was discovered to be a Tory front.

    Days before the UK election, US-based social media platform Reddit accused Russia of ‘masterminding’ the distribution of a highly-classified dossier presented by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn on the campaign trail regarding alleged Conservative plans to sell the NHS off to US investors. Prime Minister Johnson rejected that the dossier was authentic, and Moscow did not make any statements regarding claims that it was involved in its spread. Corbyn, however, stressed that the documents were real, and slammed Reddit’s claims about the alleged Russian involvement.

    Prime Minister Johnson’s Conservatives won a landslide victory in this month’s snap parliamentary vote, picking up 48 seats and securing a comfortable majority in the House of Commons. Labour, meanwhile, lost 60 seats, suffering its worst defeat since 1935, prompting party leader Jeremy Corbyn to announce plans to step down.


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