Russia

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter are to cooperate with a UK-led probe into potential Russian meddling in the Brexit referendum.

According to BuzzFeed, letters released by the House of Common’s culture, media and sport committee confirmed that Facebook and Twitter would work alongside the UK inquiry to find out what happened on their platforms in the run up to the referendum and the subsequent snap general election.

It has now also emerged that Facebook had also been asked by the Electoral Commission to investigate possible Russian interference. The US tech giant said in a letter to the inquiry that it would aim to report back to both investigations by the second week of December.

“We have also been contact by the Electoral Commission’s head of regulation as they carry out their work looking at possible Russian interference in the Brexit referendum,” said Facebook’s head of policy Simon Milner.

“We understand that similar letters have been sent by the Electoral Commission to relevant officers in Google and Twitter.

“We are now considering how we can best respond to the Electoral Commission’s request for information and expect to be able to respond to them by the second week of December.”

Twitter’s senior public policy manager Nick Pickles said in his letter that the company would be looking to report back in the comings weeks. Pickles also took the opportunity to defend Twitter bots following the recent media backlash.

“We are currently undertaking investigations into these questions and intend to share our findings in the coming weeks.

“It is important to note that not all automated accounts are bad, whether posting air quality sensor readings or posting details of Wikipedia edits, while not all high activity accounts are bots. Equally, given Twitter’s central control — users choosing to follow or unfollow an account to curate what appears in their timeline — is a robust defence against low-quality automated accounts.”

The UK committee, overseen by Conservative MP Damian Collins, contacted Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey last month to request evidence that Russian-linked accounts had attempted to interfere in British elections.

For more information about Russian-purchased ads on Facebook, watch this video.