Facebook launches probe into Russian meddling in EU referendum under pressure from MPs

Posted On: 
18th January 2018

Social media giant Facebook has said it will investigate Russian attempts to influence the EU referendum result. 

Russia has been accused of attempting to influence the EU referendum result via social media

The move comes after months of pressure from MPs who have been looking into the use of social media ahead of the Brexit vote.

In a letter to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Facebook said its security experts would assess whether “clusters” of accounts had been “engaged in coordinated activity”.

Boris Johnson and Russian foreign minister in public row over referendum 'meddling

Boris Johnson: UK will hit Russia online if cyber-threat continues

Facebook: Russia spent 75p on three adverts to influence Brexit

The company also revealed that it had identified accounts linked to the ‘Internet Research Agency’, a company based in St Petersburg which is notorious for peddling online propaganda.

It added that the probe would be conducted “promptly” and that results could be expected in a few weeks.

Culture Committee Chairman Damian Collins said: “It is right that companies like Facebook should initiate their own research into issues like this where there is such clear public concern, and not just act on intelligence that has been passed to them.”

Last year Mr Collins rebuked the social media firm claiming they had done “no work… to look for other fake accounts and pages that could be linked to Russian backed agencies and which were active during the EU referendum, as I requested”.

In evidence handed over to the Electoral Commission, Facebook said no more than 200 people were reached by the ads which were paid for by accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency.

But it did not investigate ad spends from other accounts that could have been linked to Russia.

In a letter to the watchdog, the Silicon Valley firm said: "We strongly support the commission's efforts to regulate and enforce political campaign finance rules in the United Kingdom, and we take the commission's request very seriously."