The Telegraph and four European publisher partners have published the first investigation resulting from their unprecedented call for whistleblowers in the tech industry to come forward with information on “big data” last year.
Articles across the UK daily and Die Zeit in Germany, El Mundo in Spain, Mediapart in France and Republik in Switzerland have revealed some of the suspected origins behind Russia’s online “troll factory”.
It is alleged the Russian online disinformation campaign has attempted to influence elections around the world, including the EU referendum in 2016.
The Telegraph yesterday published a story by its investigations team, led by investigations editor Claire Newell, revealing Russia’s online “troll factory” may have used software devised by a UK-trained developer to sway the Brexit vote.
Each of the publishers involved in the investigation are media partners of US non-profit The Signals Network, which aims to promote transparency, accountability, reporting and whistleblowing in the public interest.
The media partners launched their first call for information last June after they decided to investigate issues around the theme of misuse of big data.
The information received was shared between the publishers, whose journalists investigated collaboratively and co-ordinated the nature and format of their publications under a common embargo.
Investigative website Bellingcat also co-operated with the investigation, after the source approached it with his allegations and the publishers realised they were working on the same investigation.
Gilles Raymond, founder and chairman of The Signals Network, said: “Today marks the first public confirmation that a call for information and investigations initiated by top tier international medias on a topic they chose can reveal massive wrongdoings threatening our democracies.”
The organisation said the five media partners have a combined audience of more than 65m people, and that they decided to work together to maximise the impact of their investigations in the public interest.
They are continuing to call for information from whistleblowers who “work in the technology industry, act in good faith and have information suggesting the public is being harmed, exploited or misled by powerful corporations with access to big data”.
The Intercept in the US and citizen journalism website Wikitribune were part of the original call for information.
Wikitribune subsequently ditched its entire editorial team in favour of prioritising the site’s community members and citizen journalists, while The Intercept may still join the investigation for potential follow-ups.