MP tells Facebook to look harder for Russian Brexit meddling

Facebook says that a Russian troll farm with links to the Kremlin that spent $100,000 on Facebook ads in an attempt t...

Posted: Dec 14, 2017 4:17 AM
Updated: Dec 14, 2017 4:18 AM

Facebook says that a Russian troll farm with links to the Kremlin that spent $100,000 on Facebook ads in an attempt to influence U.S. politics only spent $0.97 targeting British voters ahead of the Brexit referendum. But the head of a parliamentary committee investigating fake news and online misinformation in the United Kingdom says he's concerned Facebook hasn't looked hard enough.

Responding to a request from the United Kingdom's Electoral Commission, Facebook said that three advertisements which were not explicitly related to the EU referendum, but to immigration, were targeted at Britons in the run-up to the referendum.

Facebook's investigation examined pages it identified as being run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll army based in St Petersburg that has ties to the Kremlin.

To target U.S. voters, the same group ran a wide network of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr pages that were designed to look like real American activist groups. The troll group's content reached an estimated 150 million Americans on Facebook and Instagram alone, Facebook told the U.S. Congress.

Related: Seen any of these before? You may have been targeted by Russian ads on Facebook

For its investigation in the U.K., Facebook looked at ads placed during the official campaign period, which lasted just over two months, from 15 April to 23 June, 2016.

Damian Collins, who is head of the parliamentary committee that is investigating the role of fake news and online misinformation in the UK, said Wednesday that Facebook hadn't looked hard enough.

"It would appear that no work has been done by Facebook to look for other fake accounts and pages that could be linked to Russian backed agencies and which were active during the EU referendum," he tweeted shortly after Facebook's letter to the commission was released.

Collins said that by limiting its investigation to one Russian troll group and to the two month period leading up to the referendum, Facebook had not been thorough enough.

"Are we to believe that Russian backed targeting of voters through social media with fake news was limited only to Twitter during the EU referendum, when both Twitter and Facebook had been used by them in the USA during the Presidential election," he wrote.

In a speech last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a warning to Russia saying that the U.K. believed it interferes in elections and plants fake news stories to sow discord. However, later in Parliament she clarified to say she was not talking about the U.K. specifically.

Facebook's findings were welcomed by pro-Brexit campaigners, including Nigel Farage, former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

"Where is the screaming conspiracy theory about Russia and the EU referendum, now we we know they spent less than -1 on Facebook?" he tweeted.

The Electoral Commission would not comment on Facebook's findings but said that it had received responses from Facebook, Twitter, and Google to their request for information relating to online misinformation in the U.K., and that "There is further work to be done with these companies in response to our request for details of campaign activity on their platforms funded from outside the UK."

While Twitter's response to the British electoral commission has not been made public, a CNN investigation in November found that a small number of Kremlin-linked accounts pushed pro-Brexit spin on the morning of the referendum.

Facebook has not provided the commission with the actual ads that were placed, but the social network told CNN it intends to. It did not respond to a request for comment regarding Collins' criticism.

Facebook's findings come at the end of a year when the company has had to come to grips with the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Just days after the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a conference, "Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook -- of which it's a small amount of content -- influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea."

In January 2017, the U.S. intelligence community released a report which said that Russia tried to meddle in the presidential election and had used social media to do it. No similar assessment has been released in the U.K.

Facebook has since cooperated with multiple U.S. congressional investigations and has handed over the details of thousands of Russian-bought ads that targeted American voters and has pledged to take steps to increase transparency around political advertising on its platform.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93012

Reported Deaths: 2040
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26447926
Ramsey10697319
Dakota7354125
Anoka5935132
Stearns390924
Washington368955
Scott250033
Olmsted236728
Nobles195416
Blue Earth16476
Wright15737
St. Louis148039
Carver13897
Clay134040
Rice13228
Mower13125
Sherburne112514
Kandiyohi9722
Winona86318
Lyon6674
Waseca6128
Steele5332
Freeborn5323
Benton5303
Nicollet52116
Watonwan5164
Todd4872
Crow Wing48118
McLeod4752
Chisago4711
Le Sueur4524
Otter Tail4224
Beltrami4055
Martin37210
Goodhue3519
Pine3090
Itasca30314
Polk2984
Douglas2862
Isanti2790
Becker2642
Carlton2561
Cottonwood2240
Morrison2221
Dodge2180
Pipestone21710
Chippewa2061
Meeker1942
Sibley1863
Wabasha1830
Brown1822
Yellow Medicine1752
Rock1640
Cass1593
Murray1582
Mille Lacs1543
Redwood1541
Unassigned15052
Renville1427
Jackson1411
Faribault1360
Swift1271
Houston1210
Koochiching1213
Kanabec1178
Roseau1170
Pennington1161
Fillmore1110
Lincoln1080
Hubbard941
Stevens941
Pope920
Big Stone760
Aitkin751
Wadena670
Wilkin613
Grant594
Lake580
Norman530
Lac qui Parle501
Marshall501
Mahnomen461
Red Lake421
Traverse290
Clearwater270
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 83644

Reported Deaths: 1294
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15697261
Woodbury526363
Johnson508627
Black Hawk443688
Linn3941110
Story340517
Dubuque310141
Scott292628
Dallas275138
Pottawattamie206838
Buena Vista197212
Marshall177034
Sioux15043
Wapello131457
Webster121614
Plymouth110420
Clinton109920
Muscatine109154
Crawford10655
Cerro Gordo101821
Warren9486
Jasper81732
Des Moines7647
Marion7536
Tama70431
Henry6854
Carroll6535
Lee6207
Wright5721
Dickinson5086
Boone5008
Bremer4837
Washington45311
Louisa42815
Mahaska39119
Delaware3833
Franklin34618
Floyd3363
Jackson3303
Winneshiek3246
Hamilton3223
Clay3164
Lyon3074
Benton3061
Hardin2951
Winnebago28913
Poweshiek2788
Butler2672
Buchanan2651
Clarke2643
Jones2643
Emmet26010
Shelby2581
Allamakee2566
Kossuth2540
Chickasaw2470
Clayton2443
Sac2440
Guthrie2416
Cedar2381
Cherokee2352
Grundy2193
Madison2122
Fayette2112
Harrison2073
Iowa1981
Mitchell1880
Howard1866
Humboldt1843
Palo Alto1830
Calhoun1793
Hancock1772
Mills1771
Cass1602
Monroe15710
Pocahontas1562
Lucas1536
Page1530
Osceola1510
Monona1451
Jefferson1371
Appanoose1333
Union1283
Taylor1271
Davis1244
Ida1151
Van Buren1131
Fremont1100
Keokuk1051
Worth1040
Greene990
Montgomery905
Wayne852
Audubon811
Adair691
Decatur670
Ringgold492
Adams330
Unassigned40
Rochester
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 81°
Mason City
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 85°
Albert Lea
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 80°
Austin
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 82°
Charles City
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 82°
Cooler temperatures are almost here
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Art infused downtown Rochester

Image

Ivanka Trump stumps in Rochester

Image

Former Obama Homeland Security Secretary Stumps for Biden

Image

Voting curbside on election day

Image

Sara's Evening Forecast - Friday

Image

Trump campaign advisor encourages in-person voting

Image

Virtual Yom Kippur

Image

Community Kitchen seeing a boost

Image

A safe Covid-19 fall activity: the apple orchard

Image

Political signs and Road right of way

Community Events