Programmers Add 72,000 Fake Signatures to Article 50 Petition With £22 and 3 Hours’ Work

MPs debated the viral Revoke Article 50 petition yesterday, Chris Leslie insisted “we must fight for those who signed the petition”. Unfortunately for Leslie there’s no way of verifying exactly who “those who signed the petition” really are – as Guido revealed at the time thousands of signatures came from as far afield as Western Sahara and North Korea. As even the BBC reported over the second referendum petition back in 2016, it is all too easy for people to hijack petitions with simple programmes that submit fake signatures…

A digital marketing agency in Manchester, Kent House, decided to run a little experiment to test how easy the petition was to manipulate. They found that with a basic code written in only three hours, £12 to set up a catch-all inbox and £10 for proxy servers to spoof IP addresses, they were able to successfully submit 72,000 fake signatures over just one weekend. Every ‘signature’ had a unique name, unique email address, a valid UK postcode, and was verified by email.

These programmers weren’t even trying to distort the petition, they simply wanted to show how easily it could be done. If a Remainer with basic coding knowledge and a few quid actually wanted to manipulate the petition, this shows they could easily add on hundreds of thousands of fake ‘signatures’ in just a few days. Ultimately there’s only one number that counts, the number of votes on 23 June 2016…


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Dr Alexander Kogan, the app developer who originally harvested the Facebook data, said…

“I think what Cambridge Analytica has tried to sell is magic and made claims this is incredibly accurate and it tells you everything there is to tell about you. But I think the reality is it’s not that. If you sit down and you really work through the statistics and you think what does a correlation of point three means, those claims quickly fall apart. And that’s something any person with a statistical background can go and do.”

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