Russians spent a whole 73p to "meddle" in Brexit vote

Andrew Cummings
December 14, 2017

In contrast to the thousands of ads seemingly purchased by Russian actors during the United States presidential election, just three were purchased during the lead up to the June 2016 Brexit vote. It's unlikely, however, that the 200 people who saw the ads were likely to have formed an opinion based on those ads, and even if they had, there were nowhere near enough voters affected to have swayed the vote where Leave voters won by a 4% margin.

"Facebook responded only with regards to funded advertisements to audiences in the United Kingdom from the around 470 accounts and pages run by the Russian based Internet Research Agency, which had been active during the US Presidential election", he said in a statement.

In all, just 200 viewers of those three Internet Research Agency ads hailed from Britain, Facebook said.

Damian Collins, the Conservative chairman of the parliamentary committee that requested the information, called Facebook's answer insufficient.

The establishment Financial Times newspaper, a staunch europhile outlet which once argued for Britain to join the crisis-wracked euro currency zone, chose to report this news under the arguably misleading headline "Russia-linked accounts were active on Facebook ahead of Brexit". Approximately 470 Facebook accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency had spent $100,000 dollars (£75,000) on more than 3,000 adverts.

Alongside the Electoral Commission, the committee is investigating social media companies as it attempts to identify the impact of "fake news" being circulated on social media during the Brexit campaign.

An investigation into possible collusion was by the Electoral Commission was launched in response to persistent lobbying by Remainers such as Ben Bradshaw MP and Guardian/Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr - who recently won a British Journalism Aware for an article titled "Brexit, the ministers, the professor and the spy: how Russian Federation pulls strings in UK".

In an emailed statement, Collins said he had asked Facebook for details about "any adverts and pages paid for or set up by Russian-linked accounts", but in response Facebook provided information on only about 470 accounts and pages run by the Internet Research Agency and active during the USA election.

"It would appear that no work has been done by Facebook to look for Russian activity around the European Union referendum, other than from funded advertisements from those accounts that had already been identified as part of the US Senate's investigation".

Moscow has consistently denied trying to meddle in the Brexit vote.

Theresa May has previously accused Russian Federation of spreading fake news and misinformation online as part of a campaign to "sow discord in the West".

BuzzFeed News understands Facebook will not widen the scope of its investigation, unless new information appears which identifies other Russian-linked accounts - for example from security agencies.

The criticism of Twitter follows Facebook's submission to the Electoral Commission.

Other reports by iNewsToday