The conversation on X ahead of the UK election is being influenced by accounts that appear to be bots, a new investigation by Global Witness has found. 

Ten accounts have shared more than 60,000 tweets that have been seen more than an estimated 150 million times in the last few weeks. Many of these tweets contain extreme and violent hate speech, disinformation, conspiracy theories and praise Putin.

The bot-like accounts have an oversize influence given how prolifically they tweet, and we found them amongst a very small sample size of accounts. 

Tweets amplified by the bot-like accounts have spread virulent Islamophobia, antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia, state that climate change is a “hoax”, that vaccines have created a “genocide” and that President Putin is “the greatest president ever.”  

All of the bot-like accounts we found have had days when they’ve shared more than 200 tweets, and four of them have had days when they’ve shared an extraordinary 500+ tweets. Together, they have spread more than 60,000 tweets since the election was called.

Ava Lee, Campaign Leader at Global Witness, said:

“Political discussion online is often toxic – we all know that. But when we go on social media, we believe we’re seeing what real people think. While we might not agree with it, we trust that what we see are genuine views held by other voters. When that’s not true, when the conversation may have been influenced by someone who has paid for bots to spread division or to get a particular party into power, our democracy is in jeopardy.

“The UK is going to the polls in under a week. The US in four months. Half the world’s population this year. X, and all social media companies, need to clean up their platforms and put our democracies before profit.”

We wrote to X to give them the opportunity to comment on these findings but they did not respond to our findings.