UK authorities are investigating a highly-popular anti-Brexit petition after “discovering” tens of thousands of fraudulent signatures. The petition platform’s lack of identity check raises concerns the vast majority of 3.5 million signs could be fake.
Britain’s House of Commons Petition Committee announced on Sunday that it has removed around 77,000 signatures that authorities say were “added fraudulently,” and will continue to monitor the platform for “suspicious activity.”
The Committee emphasized that the website has not been “hacked,” and that it is “working and secure.”
“The petitions website has not been hacked,” authorities said via Twitter. “Fraudulent signatures have been and will continue to be removed, to ensure the site’s integrity.”
“We take fraud in the petitions system very seriously, because it undermines the process of parliamentary democracy,” Helen Jones, chair of the Petitions Committee, said in a statement. Authorities are urging the public to “properly” sign the petition, which got over 3.5 million signatures over the weekend, after 52 percent of Brits opted to leave the EU in a referendum held Thursday.
It seems that officials have indeed removed tens of thousands of fraudulent signatures from all across the globe, including such bizarre places as North Korea and the Vatican. But even without the overseas support, the petition has still been signed by over 3.3 million alleged Britons, according to the raw data.
However, closer scrutiny of the petition platform outlines a number of shortcomings in the system, which lacks any filter of potentially-fraudulent signs. It relies solely on the goodwill and honesty of the individual filling out the form. No serious security checks were introduced to confirm identity of the signatory.
Apparently any national can have a voice in the purely-British matter. All one needs is a unique email address, any valid postal code that can just be googled, and the intent to deceive the Committee by simply ticking the ‘I’m a British citizen’ checkbox.
Users of the popular 4chan image board were bragging over weekend about spamming the system with endless fraudulent signatures from the most surprising places, and wondering if “Russia, North Korea and the Pope” would now be blamed for “hijacking British politics.” Others mocked the entire concept of online petitioning, due to the “lack of any verification needed and the fact that you can make a petition over anything.”
In any case, the House is obliged to consider all the petitions that have gathered more than 100,000 signatures, so even if over 95 percent are disqualified as fraudulent, the politicians are still bound to debate the issue of holding a second referendum on Brexit.
“The Petitions Committee will be considering the petition at its meeting next week, and will decide whether or not to schedule a debate on it,” Jones announced.
The petition was launched by William Oliver Healey from the British Democrats party and is due to end on 25 November 2016. It was originally intended to draw attention to allegedly unfair rules of the referendum that made the victory of ‘Leave’ campaign a highly unlikely event at the time. On Sunday, Healey informed the public that his “petition has been hijacked by the remain campaign”.
“I am genuinely appalled by the behavior of some of the remain campaign, how they are conducting themselves post-referendum not just with this petition but generally,” Healey said in a Facebook post outlining his reasons for creating the petition on May 25, long before the referendum.[Source: RT]