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The influence of Kremlin media & bots during the 2016 UK EU referendum - Part 1

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Section 1: the role of the Russian state media on UK citizens during the EU referendum

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The influence of Kremlin media & bots during the 2016 UK EU referendum - Part 1

  1. 1. Putin’s Brexit? The influence of Kremlin media & bots during the 2016 UK EU referendum.
  2. 2. The full report will be released 14 February 2018. This is part one - an extract from Section 1 of the report: 5 - 44: Section 1: the role of the Russian state media in the UK during the EU referendum 45 - 65: Section 2: the role of Russian bots during the EU referendum 66: Appendix A: Terminology and Notes
  3. 3. INTRO Who is 89up? 89up is a communications agency with a specialist social media analytics team led by Josh Feldberg. Mike Harris provided insights into Russian propaganda methods. How did we do this work? Data was sourced from the Twitter Search API, Buzzsumo, the Facebook API and other scraping methods. For equivalent media spend information we used data from Kantar. Who paid for this work? No one. 89up undertook this work because as a team we are concerned about the role of autocratic regimes in shaping public opinion in democracies.
  4. 4. Section 1: the role of the Russian state media on UK citizens during the EU referendum There has been a lot of speculation about the role of the Russian government in the EU referendum in 2016. To date interest has focused on the impact of Russian bots. This report outlines the evidence for Russian interference that was hiding in plain view during the EU referendum.
  5. 5. The real story of Russian interference in the EU referendum was hiding in plain sight… Russian state media propaganda through Facebook and Twitter led to significant online traction
  6. 6. 261 Kremlin-aligned media published a significant number of unique articles about the EU referendum, or anti-EU articles, from January 2016 until the day of the referendum. Our researchers analysed the most shared of these articles, and identified 261 articles with a clear anti-EU bias to the reporting. The two main media outlets were RT and Sputnik with video produced by Ruptly.
  7. 7. There was a heavy Leave bias in the most shared RT and Sputnik articles Of the 200 most shared RT and Sputnik articles referencing the EU referendum or Brexit we analysed, there was a significant bias towards positive coverage of the Leave campaign. Analysis of article bias
  8. 8. The bias is most stark when compared to other media outlets Whereas PBS covered announcements of the Leave and Remain equally, with the majority of their coverage clearly neutral; RT’s coverage was biased towards highlighting the activities of the Leave campaign. Analysis of potential media bias
  9. 9. No other state controlled media outlet came close to social exposure of Russian media Compared to other major foreign state-funded media outlets, the Russian media outlets led to significantly larger social media exposure. Here we include all shares for France24 and PBS, but we narrow RT and Sputnik to only pro-Leave articles - still the reach is markedly greater. Social engagement by foreign state-funded media platform
  10. 10. Russian MediaVote Leave Leave.EU Including only objectively anti-EU articles, Russian state media articles led to nearly as many engagements as the official Vote Leave website. When neutral articles on RT/Sputnik are filtered out, it is still the case that the Russian media has nearly as much social engagement with anti-EU articles as the official Vote Leave campaign. 263,000 287,000 1,700
  11. 11. Russian Media Vote Leave Leave.EU Twitter: Russian state media articles won the Twitter war - with significantly more Twitter impressions than any content from either anti-EU campaign website. We estimate the value of Russian media’s impressions on Twitter to be between $47,000 - $100,000. 134,000,000 33,000,000 11,000,000
  12. 12. Why are RT and Sputnik different from other media outlets? News by mainstream UK publications - from newspapers to online magazines to the majority of our TV - is paid for commercially either by advertising, subscriptions or sales. The BBC - Ofcom-regulated and established by Royal Charter - has a legal duty to provide impartial news. Online articles from RT or Sputnik UK are not regulated, either through self-regulation (IPSO) or statutory regulation (Ofcom, IMPRESS). Some online platforms are not subject to regulation or standards codes - but the clear difference is that they do not receive a significant state subsidy from the Russian government. Sputnik UK has an operating budget from the Russian government of £1.8m a year. There is little evidence of any commercial revenue except low revenue Google adverts on the websites.
  13. 13. Why are RT and Sputnik different from other media outlets? RT (formerly Russia Today) has an international operating budget of around £250 million per annum, its expansion in the UK prior to the EU referendum was seen as a way of increasing the Kremlin’s influence. As Richard Sandbrook, director of the centre of journalism at Cardiff University puts it: “It’s not a commercial proposition, therefore the main purpose must be to gain influence. It’s about soft power for the Kremlin”. The Russian government is paying for biased news to be published in the UK to influence British voters.
  14. 14. The full report will be released 14 February 2018. For media enquiries please contact: Padraig Reidy padraig@89up.org 0203 411 2891

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