Date
14 August 2018
Following criticism from British lawmakers, Facebook has agreed to widen an internal probe into alleged Russian propaganda ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Photo: Reuters
Following criticism from British lawmakers, Facebook has agreed to widen an internal probe into alleged Russian propaganda ahead of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Photo: Reuters

Facebook widens probe into alleged Russian meddling in Brexit

Facebook has agreed to conduct a new, comprehensive search of its records for possible propaganda that Russian operatives may have spread during the run-up to Britain’s 2016 referendum on EU membership.

The social media giant’s UK policy director, Simon Milner, wrote in a letter to a British parliamentary panel that Facebook’s security experts will go through and analyze historical data to determine if there was coordinated propaganda activity ahead of the Brexit vote, Reuters reports.

In the letter addressed to Damian Collins, chair of the British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Milner wrote on Wednesday that security experts will begin their investigation “promptly” and that the work may take several weeks.

“We would like to carry out this work promptly and estimate it will take a number of weeks to complete,” Milner wrote.

The letter came after some British lawmakers criticized Facebook, saying the firm had done only a limited search for evidence that Russians manipulated the social media network and interfered with the Brexit referendum debate, Reuters noted.

Russia denies meddling in the British referendum or in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Facebook said in December that it had found just 97 cents worth of advertising by Russia-based operatives ahead of Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

Its analysis, though, involved only accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a suspected Russian propaganda service.

Collins last month described Facebook’s initial Brexit-related search as inadequate, and said on Wednesday he welcomed the company’s latest response.

“They are best placed to investigate activity on their platform,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing the results of this investigation, and I‘m sure we will want to question Facebook about this when we know the outcome.”

Facebook told US lawmakers last year that it had found 3,000 ads bought by suspected Russian agents posing as Americans and seeking to spread divisive messages in the US about race, immigration and other political topics.

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