In a recent article for Foreign Affairs magazine, Biden and his co-author stated that Russia attempted to sway Italy’s referendum on constitutional reform last year.
“A similar Russian effort is now under way to support the nationalist Northern League and the populist Five Star Movement in Italy’s upcoming parliamentary elections,” they wrote.
Yet the heads of Italy’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, AISI and AISE, this week reported to the parliamentary intelligence committee that they had found no evidence to support that claim despite “attentive monitoring”, Ansa reported.
A few months from Italy’s general election, the centre-left government has sounded the alarm about the spread of misleading news stories online, most of them highly critical of the ruling Democratic Party.
Some demonstrably false stories have been shared by websites and Facebook pages run by supporters of the Northern League and the Five Star Movement (M5S).
Investigations published by the New York Times and Buzzfeed looked into possible connections between various partisan sites, some pro-M5S and other pro-League. Despite backing different parties, certain sites were found to have the same Google ID numbers, which can – but does not necessarily – indicate that they are run by the same webmaster.
Both parties have denied any conspiracy to spread fake news, stating that they are not responsible for their supporters’ posts.
Last month, a report by American think tank the Atlantic Council said that Italy was particularly “vulnerable to Russian influence” and identified both M5S and the Northern League as “pro-Kremlin”.
Both parties have received political and media support from President Vladimir Putin’s government, the report said, “however, there is no publicly available evidence that Moscow has provided overt or covert financial support to these parties”.