Russians spent less than £1 on Brexit-related ads: Facebook

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The Chairman of Parliament's Culture Media and Sport Committee, Damian Collins, released a letter Thursday to Twitter's Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey demanding the company respond by January 15 to queries about research by City University, London, concerning some 13,500 suspected automated accounts, or bots.

The New York Times reported on December 13 that another soon-to-be-released study by the Oxford Internet Institute investigating whether Russian operatives used Twitter and YouTube to try to influence the Brexit vote also found little evidence of meddling.

"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.

The investigation ruled that Russia-linked accounts had attempted to meddle in the U.S. election, which handed victory to Donald Trump.

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"We have determined that these accounts associated with the IRA spent a small amount of money (97 USA cents, or 82 Euro cents) on advertisements that delivered to United Kingdom audiences during that time".

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

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.

He said while his own study was able to identify suspicious accounts that seemed to be part of a botnet - a group of fake accounts controlled by a single entity and programmed to automatically tweet certain messages - the researchers did not have enough data to determine who was controlling this activity.

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In January 2017, the USA intelligence community released a report which said that Russian Federation tried to meddle in the presidential election and had used social media to do it. And in October, Facebook admitted as many as 126 million US Facebook users could have viewed Russian-backed content on its platform.

In response to the Commission's request for information concerning Russian-funded campaign activity conducted during the regulated period for the June 2016 EU Referendum (15 April to 23 June 2016), Twitter reviewed referendum-related advertising on our platform during the relevant time period.

British Prime Minister 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".

Collins said: "I asked Facebook to provide the committee with details relating to any adverts and pages paid for, or set up by Russian-linked accounts".

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Mr Collins said he had met with Facebook to ask for a full response to any Russian activity linked to the 2017 General Election as well as the EU Referendum.

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