British MPs turn to Facebook to unravel Russia’s influence in the 2016 EU referendum

Amidst suspicions of Russia influence in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has been urged to hand over details of activities by Russian-linked accounts during the EU referendum and this year’s General Election.

The request was initiated by a group of MPs who are investigating the impact of “fake news” being circulated on social media.

In a letter, Conservative MP Damian Collins, told Mr Zuckerberg the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee aims to uncover “the role of foreign actors abusing platforms such as yours to interfere in the political discourse of other nations”.

Mr Collins who chairs the committee, highlighted how Facebook has already turned over about 3,000 Russian-linked adverts to several US investigations into Moscow’s influence on the country’s 2016 presidential election.

Last year, former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw claimed it was “highly probable” that Russia interfered in the EU referendum, although the Labour MP admitted evidence had yet to be found.

However, the MPs are asking Mr Zuckerberg to provide information on Facebook adverts bought by Russian-linked accounts, pages set up by Russian-linked accounts, details of the targeting of these adverts and pages, and how many times these pages and adverts were viewed.

Just like the investigations into Russian meddling into the US presidential election, concerns were also raised about Moscow’s influence on recent elections in France and Germany.

During the French presidential election campaign, incumbent Emmanuel Macron accused his challenger Marine Le Pen of spreading “fake news” about his tax arrangements, with his team claiming he was the victim of a “cyber misinformation campaign”, with Russian-linked websites said to be the source of the allegations.

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