An online petition that went viral over the weekend calling for a second referendum in the UK to decide definitively if the country should leave the European Union, has been abused by internet trolls using automated ‘bots’ to add tens of thousands of false signatures to the poll.
The House of Commons Parliamentary Petitions committee has issued a statement saying that it is currently investigating the petition for numerous reports of fraudulent activity.
The website released the statement after it was forced to remove 77,000 signatures entered from numerous locations both from within and outside the UK – including North Korea, the Vatican City and, of all places, Antarctica.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the bulk of the erroneous signatories that have proven to be false may have been motivated by posts on the notorious 4Chan message board, with users utilising the fact that the UK government website has no security safeguards or verification process other than an honesty checkbox.
A number of commenters claimed have used scripts to run automatic completion programmes to add numbers to the petition.
Helen Jones, chair of the petitions committee, said in a statement:
“The Government Digital Service is taking action to investigate and, where necessary, remove fraudulent signatures… People adding fraudulent signatures to this petition should know that they undermine the cause they pretend to support,”
Last Thursday, the 23 June, the UK voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union in a move that has caused political ramifications at home and financial meltdown across markets the world over.
Prime Minister David Cameron, has announced he will resign, and Scotland, who voted to remain within the EU are already discussing if and when they will have another referendum on independence from the rest of the UK.
Thousands of signatures have been removed from the petition so far using a number of automated and manual techniques to try ensure people signing the Remain petition can be checked and validated, said a spokesman for the UK government.