Automated bots hijack petition for second EU referendum

Online petition

A record-breaking petition calling for a re-run of the EU referendum has reportedly been hijacked by bots, created by users of the 4chan message boards.

It has resulted in thousands of fake signatures being removed from the petition, after appearing to have been added by automated bots created by people with IP addresses in locations such as North Korea, Antarctica and Vatican City.

Based on a number of posts, it seems that users had managed to script programs to sign the petition automatically. One user posted: “I voted 33,000 times. Left a script running while I was taking a shower.”

Bots can be detected by systems such as “Captcha”, which requires users to type in the letters or numbers they can see in an image, in order to identify a human from a bot. However, the petition’s website does not have any systems in place currently.

MP Helen Jones, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said: “People adding fraudulent signatures to this petition should know they undermine the cause they pretend to support. It is clear that this petition is very important to a substantial number of people.”

At the time of writing, there are 3.75 million signatures on the petition, a record-high for the parliamentary website. The vast majority of signatures that now remain on the petition do appear to be from the UK.

Despite the large number of signatures, Prime Minister David Cameron has stated already that there will not be a second vote on whether the UK should remain or leave.