The majority of the most active accounts on Twitter that post messages in support of the U.K.'s Brexit Party show signs of automated activity, leading researchers to believe they are so-called "bot" accounts, according to an investigation.
A probe by the Institute for Strategic Discourse first reported by The Mirror found that the Brexit Party, a political group led by former UKIP politician Nigel Farage, benefited far more from automated accounts than did any other political party in Britain.
Five of the accounts noted in the study were sending as many as 144 tweets per day, an average of one every 3.3 minutes over an 8-hour period, according to the Mirror.
UKIP, another pro-Brexit party, appeared also to be supported by a large number of bot accounts on Twitter: Six out of the top ten Twitter accounts most active in supporting UKIP are reportedly automated, according to the study.
Top supporters of other political parties in the U.K., such as Labour, the Conservatives, and the Green Party appeared to be normal Twitter users, according to the study. Just one of the top ten accounts supporting the Liberal Democrats, a centrist party, appeared to be a bot.
The investigation also found bot accounts identifying themselves as Labour and Conservative members that were largely involved in automated criticism of party leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war Will Ocasio-Cortez challenge Biden or Harris in 2024? The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' MORE and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to the Mirror.
"The sort of dirty tricks which we saw being tried out by Russia during the US elections are now being adopted across the board," Jacob Davey, the ISD's research manager, told the Mirror in a statement.
“These tactics are dangerous as they distort what we see online and pollute our social media environment, and need to be taken seriously," he added.
A Twitter spokesman told The Hill in a statement that the number of accounts reported as bots on the platform was decreasing, which the company said was due in part to its efforts aimed at stopping bot accounts and spammers before their accounts could send messages. Various accounts were reported for spam activity 194 million times in the second half of last year, a decrease of 17 percent from the first six months of 2018.
"This is due to a range of factors, including our increased emphasis on detection of malicious activity at signup — stopping bad actors from ever getting to the stage of Tweeting — and positive external trends affecting the volume of this activity targeting Twitter. Aggregate reports of these types of behavior have also decreased in the second half of 2018, suggesting that people continue to experience fewer spammy interactions on Twitter," read a statement shared by Twitter.