Is a massive bot army behind a wave of 'I support Boris' messages?

Written by John Johnston on 10 September 2019 in Diary

Messages supporting Boris Johnson have begun to flood Facebook and Twitter in the past 24-hours. But who or what is behind the surge?

A deluge of accounts are spamming social media with support for Boris Johnson after his decision to prorogue Parliament resulted in protest from Pro-Remain MPs and activists.

The posts, variations of "I support Boris Johnson 100%" or "I'm backing Boris", have begun to appear in the past 24 hours under tweets made by opposition MPs, while hundreds of similar messages are appearing under stories posted by mainstream news websites on Facebook.

And the massive influx of similar messages has led to suspicions that a coordinated bot network is behind the posts.

A number of the accounts appear to have stereotypical bot characteristics, with no profile photos, nonsensical usernames and little biographical details.

Others have been used to promote pro-Trump messages in recent months before rebadging and pushing support for the Prime Minister.

However, a significant number of the accounts don't fit the typical bot profile. They have convincing friend networks, pictures of pets and grandchildren. Their posting history is coherent and extensive.

So what is going on? Is this a sophisticated bot operation? A state-sponsored attempt to fuel political fueds?

Actually, it appears to be a bit of coordinated trolling by pro-Brexit Facebook groups.

An administrator in the Fight4Brexit facebook group, followed by 94,000 people, writes:"Please show your support for Boris Johnson by writing 'I support Boris 100%' on all Sky News, BBC News, Conservative Party and Labour Party posts. It's driving Remainers crazy."



Another added: "Keep going! It is driving the remoaners and Lib Dums crazy. They think it is the Russians!!"

Meanwhile, one of the page's 'top fans' said: "I just seen some remainers saying it can't possibly be real Facebook accounts and it must be people being paid or robots. No... We're just the massive majority and showing our massive support."

Over 1,000 comments have been left under the post already, with most of them coming from slightly confused members who have parroted the message in their own group.

So, while some of the activity has certainly been jumped on by bots, the majority of the posts appear to be coming from normal Facebook users out to wind-up their political opponents.

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