No evidence the Russians used social media to influence British vote to exit European Union, says Facebook
Facebook has told a British parliamentary committee that from its investigations, there was no evidence that Russia tried to interfere with the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
It comes amid concern about Russia’s propoganda activities on social media following accusations in the United States that Russia actively sought to help get Donald Trump elected as President.
The UK voted 51 to 49 percent to leave the European Union in June 2016, a decision that is still taxing the UK Government which is seeking to deliver a satisfactory agreement for the country following the UK’s departure.
The Facebook confirmation came in a letter on Wednesday to the House of Commons Committee on Digital, Culture Media and Sport.
The letter, according to Reuters, came from Facebook UK policy director Simon Milner.
He wrote that Facebook’s investigation in mid-January to try to “identify clusters of coordinated Russian activity around the Brexit referendum that were not identified previously” had been unproductive.
Facebook reportedly used the same methodology it had utilised to identify US election-related social media activity conducted by a Russian propaganda outfit called the Internet Research Agency.
Milner reportedly said the social network had reviewed both Facebook accounts and “the activity of many thousands of advertisers in the campaign period” leading up to the June 23, 2016 referendum.
He said they had “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.”
However, in his letter Facebook’s Milner acknowledged that the minimal results in the company’s Brexit review contrasted with the results of Facebook’s inquiries into alleged Russian interference in US politics.
That investigation results, Milner said, “comport with the recent indictments” Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller issued against Russian individuals and entities.
Meanwhile the British parliamentary probe is likely to be wrapped up in late March and could see recommendations made for new British laws or regulations regarding social media content and fake news.
This time last year the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) confirmed it was investigating the use of large-scale data analytics to target voters following the reported use of such techniques by the Leave campaign in the run-up to the EU referendum vote.
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