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Oscar Williams

News editor

Facebook has seen no evidence of Russian interference in Brexit

Facebook has not yet uncovered any evidence of Russian interference in last year’s Brexit referendum or this year’s general election.

Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s EMEA chief, spoke to Sky News about fears Russia may have exploited the social network to spread disinformation and propaganda in the run-up to the two votes.

“To date, we have seen nothing to indicate that the known clusters that we saw in the US election did anything in relation to Brexit or the general election,” she told the broadcaster.

Mendelsohn’s remarks come after Damian Collins, chair of the House of Commons select committee for digital, culture, media and sport, wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to request information about Russian interference.

Facebook, alongside Twitter and Google, has recently come under scrutiny for its role in promoting content from Russia-linked accounts before and after last year’s US election.

In a senate hearing last month, Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch was forced to apologise for the company’s failure to spot Russian agents’ meddling.

“How did Facebook, which prides itself on being able to process billions of data points and instantly transform them into personal connections for its users, somehow not make the connection that electoral ads paid for in roubles were coming from Russia?” Al Franken asked.

“It’s a signal we shouldn’t have missed”, Stretch admitted.

The UK’s information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, warned members of the House of Lords last week that Facebook and Google are a black box for political advertising.

“It’s a black box for the public to understand how data analytics actually works in using platforms like Facebook or Google to deliver political messages or ads,” she said.

Denham’s office is currently investigating the use of data analytics in political campaigns, and is shining a light on data analytics companies and social media firms.

“[We’re looking at] how was political data used by the platforms to target message or microtarget voters or individuals to persuade them to vote a certain way or to send a certain message,” she said.

“What we can do is pull back the curtain on how the data is used and how data analysis is happening with these big players in the marketplace.”