Sky News worked with Prose, an open source intelligence company, which analysed data from 10,000 Telegram accounts that regularly post conspiracist and extremist content, to identify accounts posting about the UK general election.

Compared to Labour and the Conservatives, Mr Farage’s return as leader of Reform UK appears to have attracted conspiracist groups, leading to a sharp and sustained surge of interest - with Mr Farage and Reform UK dominating the conversation.

“When we first started looking at how conspiracists were talking about the British general election, they weren’t talking about it very much at all,” Al Baker, managing director of Prose, told Sky News.

"However, as soon as Nigel Farage announced his intention to stand as the leader of Reform UK, interest in the election in conspiracy circles jumped enormously.

"It is very important to say that the fact conspiracists and extremists are supporting Mr Farage and Reform UK doesn’t mean that Mr Farage and Reform UK supporters are all conspiracists and extremists.

“However, it is clear that if you are a conspiracist or an extremist, you are far more likely to support Reform UK than other parties.”

One of the most prominent groups that focuses on the QAnon conspiracy theory - which believes that Trump is fighting a powerful group of Satan-worshipping paedophiles and whose supporters were part of the crowd that stormed the US Capitol in 2021 - said it would be launching a Reform UK based group on Facebook with QAnon content in order to “bring a lot of traffic to the group”.

“We will still be posting about Q and Trump and tying it all into Reform UK…” the organiser wrote.

“We’re seeing the beginnings of election denial narratives focused on the UK,” Mr Baker told Sky News.

"There appears to be groups of people online who are anticipating some kind of electoral fraud being perpetrated, in the 2024 general election.

“So, potentially, we’re leading up to a situation where the legitimacy of the election is in danger of being questioned by supporters of one of the more prominent parties at the election.”

There is some crossover between conspiracist and right-wing, nationalist groups on Telegram. Several nationalist groups endorsed Reform UK.

Activist Tommy Robinson said Mr Farage is “putting across our arguments to the nation very skillfully and in a great way. There is only one option at this election and that is Reform UK”.

Mark Collett, another former BNP member and founder of far-right nationalist group Patriotic Alternative, encouraged his followers to vote for nationalist parties standing in the election if possible.

But if it was a choice between mainstream political parties, he said: “I suggest you vote Reform and help them to completely wipe out the Conservative Party.”

Collett added the old campaign leaflets put out by the BNP were “actually markedly tamer than Farage’s current rhetoric”.

  • ᴇᴍᴘᴇʀᴏʀ 帝OPA
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    10 days ago

    An important question is how many of those conspiracy theorists are British and how many are from external groups looking to stir up trouble here, as they have done in the US.

    • Baggins@beehaw.org
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      10 days ago

      External groups based in Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and the US probably.

      And possibly not many from Iceland, Norway or Senegal.

      • futatorius@lemm.ee
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        4 days ago

        If Senegal has been secretly pulling the strings all this time, it’ll still not be the most improbable thing to happen in this fucked-up timeline.

  • thehatfox@lemmy.world
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    10 days ago

    Antivax conspiracists have been in the Reform orbit for a while. As have the climate change denial folks (which is more or less Reform policy), most recently the “15 minute city” flavour.

    I have a feeling the next branch might be the “cashless society” stuff that’s brewing.

    Reform seems to be the natural party for cranks, more so than UKIP was.