Facebook expands probe into alleged Russian meddling in Brexit referendum

Facebook has widened its investigation into possible Russian interference after MPs accused the company of obfuscating

The social media giant wrote to a committee of MPs on Wednesday agreeing to their request for more information about potential coordinated activity on its website around the Brexit vote in 2016.

Facebook Inc. said Wednesday that it was broadening its investigation into whether Russian Federation attempted to meddle in the 2016 referendum on Britain's membership in the European Union, after its earlier probe found only a minimal amount of activity.

The select committee responsible for overseeing the investigation was concerned that the same "troll" accounts set up to target the US election were also aimed at the United Kingdom and spread fake news that may have had an influence on the outcome of the vote on the UK's deal for its departure from the European Union, or Brexit. Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google and YouTube have been under intense pressure in Europe and the United States to stop nations from using tech services to meddle in another country's elections, and to investigate when evidence of such meddling arises.

In December, Facebook said the Kremlin had paid under a single US Dollar for its advertising platform to support the UK's choice to leave the EU.

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But Mr Collins accused the company of doing "no work" other than looking at those accounts that had already been identified as part of the US Senate's investigation into Moscow interference in the US presidential election.

Writing to Mr Collins, Mr Milner said: "You expressed a view that there may be other similar coordinated activity from Russian Federation that we had not yet identified through our investigation and asked for use to continue our investigatory work".

"They are best placed to investigate activity on their platform".

Collins, who is investigating the role of fake news and online misinformation in the United Kingdom, argued at the time that Facebook hadn't looked hard enough. Facebook told USA lawmakers a year ago that it had found 3,000 ads bought by suspected Russian agents posing as Americans and seeking to spread divisive messages in the United States about race, immigration and other political topics.

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