Prime Minister Theresa May last night attacked Russia for its role in spreading false information in the Western media.
Addressing the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the City of London’s Guildhall last night, May said: “It is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.
“We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.
“Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.
“The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise.”
Her speech followed the revelation from Twitter that a user of the site who tweeted a picture of a woman in a hijab walk past a terror attack victim in London in March was a fake account set up by a Russian “troll factory”.
The fake account, @Southlonestar, said: “Muslim woman pays no mind to the terror attack, casually walks by a dying man while checking phone #PrayForLondon #Westminster #BanIslam.”
May also stressed the need to improve relations with Russia to avoid a return to the Cold War, saying: “While we must beware, we also want to engage.”
She said Britain and Russia should not be “in a state of perpetual confrontation”, and announced that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will visit Moscow in the coming months for talks.
“We know that a strong and prosperous Russia which plays by the rules would be in the interests of the United Kingdom, Europe and the world.
“As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has the reach and the responsibility to play a vital role in promoting international stability.
“Russia can, and I hope one day will, choose this different path.
“But for as long as Russia does not, we will act together to protect our interests and the international order on which they depend.”
US intelligence services claim Russia interfered in last year’s US presidential election, namely through posts and advertising on social media, it emerged in recent US congressional hearings.
However, US president Donald Trump has said he believes his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s denial over election meddling.
Twitter has already put a stop to advertising from Kremlin-backed news agencies Russia Today and Sputnik on the back US intelligence community reports over Russian interference.
The MP leading the UK’s fake news inquiry has called on Twitter and Facebook to share data on Russian-linked accounts and advertising amid fears Moscow also sought to influence the UK’s election and Brexit votes.
Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire