• Reddit banned 61 accounts and one subreddit was also banned
  • Reddit discovered these accounts are somewhat connected to the leaked official US-UK documents
  • Reddit user Gregoratior shared several files of the trade talks in TIWG

Reddit shared earlier today that a leak of official US-UK trade documents that happened on its platform was the work of Russian operatives and is part of the long-time political influence campaign. The leak reportedly took place in the late part of Oct. 2019 when a Reddit user named Gregoratior shared several files from the continuing trade talks happening in the Trade and Investment Working Group (TIWG). The authenticity of the files was confirmed after the UK labor party used excerpts from the 451-page release in its campaign for the UK general elections, which is scheduled to happen on Dec. 12.

The leaked documents revealed the intentions of the UK Conservative Party to sell the state-financed National Health Service (NHS) to get favorable terms from the US side. The Reddit leaked documents were a godsend to the opposing Labour Party, who took advantage of the leak to spike its pre-vote status. Following the leak, Reddit banned 61 accounts and one subreddit with a statement from the site saying:

We investigated this account [Gregoratior] and the accounts connected to it, and today we believe this was part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.

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

Gregoratior and other 60 banned Reddit accounts were associated with a Russian influence operation that the social networking site Facebook banned in May. Later, the Facebook accounts were linked to a global long-standing Russian influence operation named Secondary Infektion by The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab ( DFRLab ). The purpose of this influence operation was to disperse stories that confronted Western unity and interests by creating false stories on the Internet before amplifying them with Facebook accounts running from Russia, DFRLab stated,

The operation's goal appears to have been to divide, discredit, and distract Western countries. Some of its stories were calculated to inflame tensions between NATO allies, especially Germany and the United States, as well as Britain and the United States. Others appeared designed to stoke racial, religious, or political hatred, especially in Northern Ireland.

The operation originated in Russia. It was persistent, sophisticated, and well resourced. It prioritized OPSEC over clicks, showed a high degree of skill and consistency in its tradecraft, impersonated politically active European citizens, and often covered issues of direct relevance to Russian foreign policy.

The strategies utilize here are something that we have seen in the past, particularly in the 2016 US Presidential elections. During that time, it was Guccifer 2.0’s revelations that influenced the news coverage. Gregoratior has the same mode of operation, which uses illegally obtained documents leaked online.