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No New Evidence Russia Interfered with Brexit, Says Facebook

by on 3rd March 2018

Facebook has told the House of Commons Committee on Digital, Culture Media and Sport that it has found no new evidence Russia used its platform to interfere with the UK’s Brexit referendum.

Since The UK’s June 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union, a number of organisations and politicians have alleged Russian interference in the referendum; several prominent MPs, including Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, have called for investigations.

In a letter to the Parliamentary Committee, Facebook UK policy director Simon Milner announced that, in January, the social network giant attempted to “identify clusters of coordinated Russian activity around the Brexit referendum that were not identified previously.”

According to Milner, Facebook studied both personal and professional accounts, alongside “the activity of many thousands of advertisers in the campaign period’ in the run up the Brexit vote.

And it turns out that they “found no additional coordinated Russian-linked accounts or pages delivering ads to the UK regarding the EU Referendum during the relevant period, beyond the minimal activity we previously disclosed.”

The research runs counter to the results of an investigation conducted by Facebook into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, in which Facebook discovered posts shared by the Internet Research Agency reached 29 million users. It also discovered the organisation spent $100,000 on ad campaigns.

To put this in context, according to data from Hootsuite and WeAreSocial, Facebook has 2.1 billion monthly active users. A recent report also discovered Facebook offers advertisers access to 33 percent more people than exist in the U.S., and another report by Pew Research found “5% of web-using adults in the USA have a lot of trust in the information they get from social media.”

A recent poll by USA Today also discovered that of 20 issues likely to influence a U.S. citizen’s vote in the upcoming Congressional election in November, “Russian/Election meddling” ranked dead last and is only a concern for 1% of voters.

Facebook isn’t the only online business to suggest that Russian involvement in the Brexit vote was negligible. YouTube’s global head of public policy, Juniper Downs, announced that the world’s most popular video sharing website had also “conducted a thorough investigation around the Brexit referendum and found no evidence of Russian interference.”

In evidence previously presented to the same committee, Nick Pickles, Twitter’s Head of Public Policy and Government for the UK, announced Twitter’s investigation had uncovered 49 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency. Twitter’s user base currently comprises 330 million monthly active users.

Damian Collins MP, the Committee’s chairman, declared Facebook still hasn’t provided all of the information it promised. He also announced a forthcoming report into Social Media and Fake News, due later this month, that will contain legal recommendations and regulations for content published on social media platforms.

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