eyes on russia
Russia has reportedly taken an interest in meddling in the Catalonian independence referendum in Spain, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reports, writing that "the Kremlin is using the Catalan crisis as a way to deepen divisions within Europe and consolidate its international influence." Courts in Spain ruled earlier this month that the referendum would violate the national constitution, although the autonomous Catalan region is set to vote on its independence on Oct. 1.
El Pais alleges that in the past several weeks, Russia has deployed the same tools that it used to influence America's 2016 presidential election, including fake news articles that are spread through social media by bots:
The definitive proof that those who mobilize the army of pro-Russian bots have chosen to focus on the Catalan independence movement can be seen in the fact that Catalonia has begun to appear in the list of regular topics on social media alongside Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).
This is reflected by the results of the Hamilton 68 tool developed by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund created in the wake of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections. This tool permanently monitors 600 pro-Kremlin accounts, both real and false. In 48 hours from Wednesday to Friday last week, one of the most-used hashtags employed by these profiles was #Catalonia, behind others including #HerpesHillary and #Trump. [El Pais]
El Pais also points to the Russian state-sponsored media organization RT, which has reportedly used its "Spanish-language portal to spread stories on the Catalan crisis with a bias against constitutional legality." Since late August, RT has published 42 articles about the Catalonia referendum, many under fake or misleading headlines.
Russia has denied any interest in the referendum. "This is an internal matter for Spain and we do not see any possible involvement in any way," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov. Read the full report in English at El Pais.