SPANISH authorities fear the Catalan election could be targeted by online bots and hackers.
Dedicated social media accounts – mainly from Russia – targeted October’s referendum campaign to such an extent that Russian news outlets were the fourth most influential in the build up, according to El Pais.
Ahead of regional elections on December 21, security services are once again concerned about the potential for online interference.
The election is hugely important as it could settle the issue of Cataloñia breaking away from Spain. The region declared independence following a pro-independence vote in an illegal referendum.
Intelligence services are attempting to combat fake news stories, automated online accounts and hacking during the upcoming campaign.
An unnamed security source told Spanish media: “They could flood the internet with fake news, create alarm, influence the participation, attack websites, try to interfere with the counting center to slow down the vote count”.
Other intelligence officials have reportedly warned that avoiding cyber attacks is difficult, so reacting effectively should be the priority.
Work is reportedly underway to protect against online attacks on data centres and to create a rapid response system to rebut hoaxes.
The phenomenon of ‘fake news’ rose to prominence during the USA’s last presidential campaign.
Many social media accounts and websites published false stories, which were heavily biased to suit certain agendas.
There has also been widespread allegations that the Brexit referendum was influenced by similar issues, with Russian accounts believed to make up a high proportion of those involved.