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UK Lawmakers Seek Facebook Data on Russia-linked Brexit Ads

  • Associated Press

FILE - A Pro-Brexit campaigner hands out leaflets at Liverpool Street station in London, March 23, 2016. British lawmakers are now conducting a probe into "the role of foreign actors" using social media platforms to influence political discourse in other nations.

British lawmakers have asked Facebook to release information about Russian-linked activity around the U.K.'s European Union membership referendum and recent election.

The House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said it is seeking details of ads and pages set up by Russian-linked accounts during the 2016 referendum and 2017 election campaign, as well as information about their cost, targeting and reach.

In a letter to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, committee chairman Damian Collins said the information is being sought for an investigation into “the role of foreign actors abusing platforms such as yours to interfere in the political discourse of other nations.”

The committee announced earlier this year it was setting up an inquiry into the phenomenon of “fake news.”

Collins said the requested information is in line with that supplied by Facebook to U.S. Senate committees investigating the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook said Tuesday it has received the letter “and will respond once we have had the opportunity to review the request.”

Facebook disclosed last month it had found ads linked to fake accounts - likely run from Russia - that sought to influence the U.S. election. Facebook said the ads focused on divisive political issues such as immigration and gun rights in an apparent attempt to sow discord among the U.S. population.

The tech company has handed over several thousand ads to three congressional committees and shut down 470 pages and accounts in response to U.S. lawmakers' probes into Russian meddling in the election.

In Britain, calls are increasing for more information on the role of online advertising in the June 2016 EU referendum, in which 52 percent of voters opted to leave the bloc and 48 percent to remain.

Opposition Labor Party lawmaker Ben Bradshaw last week urged the government and electoral officials to investigate reports of “the role of dark money in the EU referendum campaign.”

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