IT&Software

Facebook Brexit probe finds just three Russian-bought adverts

Facebook Brexit probe finds just three Russian-bought adverts

Facebook's investigation examined pages it identified as being run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll army based in St Petersburg that has ties to the Kremlin.

A senior British MP on Wednesday accused Facebook of failing to seriously investigate possible Russian influence in the Brexit vote, after it found just three adverts linked to a known propaganda group.

To target US voters, the same group ran a wide network of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr pages that were created to look like real American activist groups.

"Facebook responded only with regards to funded advertisements to audiences in the United Kingdom from the 470 accounts and pages run by the Russian-based Internet Research Agency, which had been active during the USA election", MP Damian Collins, chairman of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, wrote on Twitter.

Collins said Facebook "had only identified adverts from pages that had already been discovered in the U.S. investigation, and that studies showing thousands of Twitter bots had attempted to disrupt the vote were strong evidence that there was Russian meddling".

"It would appear that no work has been done by Facebook to look for other fake accounts and pages that could be linked to Russian backed agencies and which were active during the European Union referendum", he tweeted shortly after Facebook's letter to the commission was released. British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russian Federation of meddling in the elections and planting fake stories.

Facebook's findings were welcomed by pro-Brexit campaigners, including Nigel Farage, former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

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In an emailed statement, Collins said he had asked Facebook for details about "any adverts and pages paid for or set up by Russian-linked accounts", but in response Facebook provided information on only about 470 accounts and pages run by the Internet Research Agency and active during the US election. "Only $1,031.99 of that amount was spent on six referendum-related ads during the regulated period".

Meanwhile, Twitter told the Electoral Commission that the ads in question were purchased during the regulated period for political campaigning in the June 2016 EU Referendum - specifically from April 15 to June 23, 2016, TechCrunch reported.

Facebook's findings come at the end of a year when the company has had to come to grips with the spread of misinformation on its platform.

The social media giant told Congress that the Russian agency had posted roughly 80,000 pieces of divisive content that were shown to about 29 million people between January 2015 and August 2017, and that those posts were liked, shared and followed by others - reaching tens of millions more people.

In the US, Facebook, Twitter and Google are facing intense fake news scrutiny after disclosing the details about the presence of Russian political ads, tweets and posts on their platforms during the presidential election in 2016.

The investigation ruled that Russia-linked accounts had attempted to meddle in the USA election, which handed victory to Donald Trump.


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