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YouTube has found no evidence Russian accounts bought ads to interfere in the Brexit vote

YouTube has found no evidence to suggest that Russian-linked accounts purchased adverts to interfere in the Brexit referendum, its policy chief has said.

Juniper Downs today told the UK inquiry into fake news that staff would now conduct further research into whether Russian groups spread disinformation on the platform through unpaid posts during the campaign.

“We have conducted [an investigation into] the Brexit referendum and found no evidence of interference,” she said. “We looked at all ads with any connection to Russia, and there is no evidence of our services being used.”

Downs was speaking at a special meeting of the inquiry in Washington after MPs flew out to grill executives from Google (YouTube’s parent company), Facebook and Twitter. The trip has attracted criticism in light of claims reported by BuzzFeed that the firms had been prepared to travel to the UK.

Last month Facebook came under fire after it said Russian groups bought just 72p of advertising to influence the Brexit vote. The firm’s UK policy chief, Simon Milner, responded by promising to launch a second investigation to identify all Russian attempts to spread disinformation, regardless of whether they relied on paid posts. He told the committee this afternoon that the research would be ready by the end of February.

Milner also said the site had made strides in boosting transparency around political advertising: “At the next general election you will be able to see every day what is being run by the main campaign pages and by all candidates. If you want to see what ads they are running, you will be able to see the ads. We’re going to introduce a radical new level of transparency that has never been seen before in elections.”