Leaked NHS Documents Linked To Russian Disinformation Campaign, Reddit Say

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn holds a redacted copy of the Department for International Trade's UK-US Trade and Investment Working Group report following a speech about the NHS, in Westminster, London. (Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images) (Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)

Leaked documents used as proof by Jeremy Corbyn of an NHS sell-off by the Tories are linked to a Russian disinformation campaign, Reddit has confirmed. 

A spokesperson for the online platform said 61 accounts had been banned following an investigation into unusual activity. 

They said the campaign had followed the same pattern of activity as a Russian operation known as “Secondary Infektion” which was discovered by Facebook earlier this year.  

The documents themselves were presented at a Labour press conference by Corbyn as evidence the government was at an advanced stage of negotiations with the US to open up the health service to American pharmaceutical companies.

There is currently no suggestions the documents were false or doctored in any way. 

Corbyn responded by describing allegations of links with Russia as  “an advanced stage of rather belated conspiracy theories by the prime minister.

 

“When we released the documents, at no stage did the Prime Minister or anybody deny that those documents were real, deny the arguments that we put forward, and if there has been no discussion with the USA about access to our health markets, if all that is wrong, how come after a week they still haven’t said that?

“The issues are that those documents show exactly what the British Government was doing in discussions with Donald Trump’s administration in the USA and also why the Prime Minister has refused to release the report on Russian interference in British politics, which he’s been sitting on for a very long time.” 

He also accused Johnson of hiding “the issues and the truth”, causing confusion in order to obscure the alleged negotiations. 

The Labour leader added: “We obtained those documents, we believe those documents to be correct, and nobody until yesterday had denied the correctness of those documents.

“The prime minister has answers to give, which he refuses to do, about Russian donations to the Tory Party or the report that he is sitting on about Russian interference in British politics.

“Of course there should be no interference in our British political system by Donald Trump or the Russians.”

Reddit said it believed the documents were leaked as “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia”.

In a statement, the company said its investigation had found a “pattern of coordination” between the now-banned accounts on its site and a Russian campaign uncovered by Facebook earlier this year.

Information from the investigation into the “Secondary Infektion” campaign on Facebook was used to identify suspect accounts on Reddit.

Reddit said: “This group provides us with important attribution for the recent posting of the leaked UK documents, as well as insights into how adversaries are adapting their tactics.

“As a result of this investigation, we are banning… 61 accounts under our policies against vote manipulation and misuse of the platform. ”

Speaking at a news conference last month, Corbyn said the 451 pages left Boris Johnson’s claim the the NHS wouldn’t be part of trade talks “in absolute tatters”.

Reddit said the leaked files had first been posted in October and then reposted by a second account.

Pockets of accounts had worked together to “upvote” the posts using vote manipulation to make them more visible to users of the platform, it added.

These accounts had posted in different regional subreddits and in several different languages.

“As we have done with previous influence operations, we will also preserve these accounts for a time, so that researchers and the public can scrutinise them to see for themselves how these accounts operated,” Reddit said.

Labour again refused to discuss the source for the documents.

“These documents reveal the plot against our NHS. And of course neither the UK nor the US government have denied their authenticity. Our releasing them to journalists was clearly in the public interest,” a Labour spokesman said.

 

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