Facebook Says It Found No Additional Russian Ads on Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. said it found no more activity from Russian accounts using its advertising in the U.K. to influence a 2016 vote to leave the European Union, after it was asked by lawmakers to probe more deeply.

The company used the same method that uncovered Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election activities, and found no comparable Brexit campaign, Simon Milner, Facebook’s director of U.K. policy, wrote in a letter to lawmakers Wednesday. The answer didn’t completely satisfy the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which had requested more information in February.

“I look forward to them sharing with us, amongst other information: the exact number of accounts that they have suspended; how they are resourcing their fight against bots; their methodology of how they identify fake accounts; and how they determine what country those accounts come from,” Damian Collins, the committee chair, said in a statement. Facebook has promised additional details by March 14, he said.

During a February hearing that the committee held in Washington, D.C., the panel’s chairman called into question the nature of the company’s investigation into Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. and U.K. Elections.

Collins said conversations with the U.S. Senate’s Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s actions, made "very clear that everything has been extrapolated only from those accounts where ruble payments were made" -- rather than a wider variety indicators of activity.

Two Facebook executives who were testifying in the February hearing insisted the company used broader signals to search for accounts engaged in meddling.

The U.K. lawmakers suggested at the hearing that problems on social media, including interference with democracies and fake news, stem from lack of regulation and advertising-dependent business models that reward click-bait and inflammatory material.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.