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Bots accused of hijacking anti-Brexit petition

The online petition has 3.7 million signatures, but all of them may not be real.


The British Parliament considers all petitions with more than 100,000 signatures for debate.

Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

An online petition that went viral over the weekend calls for a second referendum in the UK to decide definitively if the country should leave the European Union. The petition currently boasts 3.7 million signatures, but all is not as it seems.

The British Parliament's House of Commons Petitions Committee said Sunday it is looking into claims that some signatures were added fraudulently by bots. Automated bots, apparently created by users on 4chan message boards, may have added signatures from IP addresses in Vatican City, Antarctica and North Korea.

77,000 signatures have been removed so far thanks to a combination of automated and manual techniques used to check the credentials of signatories, said a spokeswoman.

Signatures found to be added by bots will be continue to be removed, Petitions Committee Chair and Member of Parliament Helen Jones said in the statement.

"People adding fraudulent signatures to this petition should know they undermine the cause they pretend to support," Jones said. "It is clear that this petition is very important to a substantial number of people."

The committee is expected to decide this week whether the petition's position should be debated in Parliament.