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Facebook pledges to further investigate Russian interference in Brexit referendum

Facebook has pledged to expand the scope of its investigation into Russian interference in the EU referendum campaign.

The announcement comes after the social media giant faced criticism last month from Damian Collins, chair of the parliamentary inquiry into fake news, after it identified just 72p of Russian advertising published in the lead up to the Brexit vote.

Now, Simon Millner, UK policy director at Facebook, has said the firm is attempting to “identify other similar clusters engaged in coordinated activity around the Brexit referendum that was not identified previously”.

Collins tweeted to say that he welcomed Facebook’s response and looked forward to reviewing its findings.

In December, Facebook and Twitter responded to the committee’s inquiry with a copy of their responses to a separate investigation by the Electoral Commission into spending. But Collins’ committee is addressing all Russian disinformation in the referendum, not just paid posts.

At the time, Collins noted that Facebook had conducted its own research to identify tens of thousands of fake pages and accounts active during the French presidential election: “They should do the same looking back at the EU referendum and not just rely on external sources referring evidence of suspicious activity back to them.”

Collins also slammed Twitter for “failing to answer the clear questions [we] asked them”. The site had identified just one account, @RT+com, which promoted Russian tweets during last year’s EU referendum campaign. RT paid around £750 to post six tweets, the social network said.

Facebook’s Millner said in the latest letter to Collins that it would be useful to receive any information, including intelligence assessments, that the UK government may have that is relevant to its investigation. He estimated the work would take “a number of weeks to complete”.