On Wednesday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn released more than 450 pages of unredacted documents relating to US-UK trade negotiations.
Corbyn used the documents, which detailed several meetings between trade negotiators going back to 2017, to show that the NHS and food standards had come up during talks about any future US-UK post-Brexit free trade deal.
Corbyn had NHS doctors and nurses hand out copies of the documents to journalists. Senior Tories criticised Labour for releasing them fully unredacted, including the names of the US and UK officials who took part in the meetings.
But how the documents came to be in the hands of Jeremy Corbyn quickly became the focus of attention.
As several reporters and news outlets subsequently pointed out the documents had been posted to Reddit in full by a user named ‘gregoratior’ to the /r/WorldPolitics subreddit. They had sat on Reddit for a full five weeks before the Corbyn press conference.
In fact, the same user had initially posted the same documents to the /r/Wikileaks subreddit earlier in the day on Monday, October 21. The post was later removed without any explanation, but a cached version can be found here.
One of the moderators of the popular /r/UKPolitics subreddit told BuzzFeed News it was one of several actions which he found “suspicious” around the behaviour of the account. Take for instance, gregoriator appeared to be trying to collect “karma”.
To get influence on Reddit, users try to collect “karma points”, that is, getting other users to give them upvotes on posts. It gives the Reddit user authenticity when posting on other subreddits.
The /r/UKPolitics moderator said gregoratior had been using techniques to boost the karma on his profile, sometimes known as “karma farming”, by posting comments in subreddits and then deleting them.
“This wasn’t some random act, the profile enhancing posts which were subsequently deleted are very typical of an account building process,” the moderator told BuzzFeed News.
“A pattern of behaviour we see quite frequently from users who wish to push information. One quirk of Reddit is that deleted content retains its karma score and so users game this.”
Other people pointed out gregoratior’s posts seemed like they were written by a non-native speaker. Also, it wasn’t just on Reddit where the user was trying to get attention for the documents.
A Twitter account was set-up with the username Wilbur Gregoratior in October. Every one of @gregoratior’s 83 tweets over the last few weeks has been devoted to tweeting the Reddit link to anti-Brexit MPs, Labour figures and journalists.
On Thursday, Twitter suspended the @gregoriator account.
For weeks no-one in frontline politics or the mainstream media paid much attention to the documents or the Reddit post. As Scram News reported yesterday, the Reddit link and versions of the post would later appear on 4Chan and a disinformation website.
Until Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling tweeted the link to the Reddit post last Friday several days before Corbyn’s big reveal.
Kirton-Darling told BuzzFeed News she was alerted to the post by “a fellow trade policy nerd”.
When asked if she alerted Corbyn’s office to the documents, Kirton-Darling said: “Not the only one I guess as many people were circulating the link”.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to gregoriator over Reddit.