After it was revealed that Russia might have meddled with the US presidential election last year, some people started thinking "if they meddled there, could they have meddled in the Brexit vote?" Lots of investigations have happened with regard to the US election, but not so much Brexit. So officials have decided to find out.
Damian Collins, the UK's chair of digital, culture, media and sport committee has written to Mark Zuckerberg informing the Facebook co-founder that the committee is investigating fake news on social media around the time of the Brexit referendum. It's asking for information on any 'politically divisive' adverts purchased by Russian 'actors' in the run up to the vote.
Specifically the committee wants to know if any adverts were purchased by accounts linked with Russia, how much was paid, and how many times those adverts were viewed by Facebook's 32 million UK accounts.
This news comes shortly after it was revealed Russian accounts purchased $100,000 worth of adverts to spread fake news during the US election, which were in turn viewed by 10 million Americans. Information on those adverts was handed over to Congress, and now the UK government wants the same thing to happen here. It's been requested that the information be provided by 7th November.
As to why Russia would have a vested interest in Britain leaving the EU, I asked resident political nerd James O'Malley to explain it. Basically with the UK willingly leaving the EU it has the potential to strengthen Russia's geopolitical agenda. Not only is the EU slightly less unified (and therefore unable to oppose Russia's shenanigans in Eastern Europe), having such a high profile member drop out of the union makes the EU less appealing to potential new members in Eastern Europe - and therefore meaning Russia has a great deal more influence over them. He also noted that with the UK not a member of the EU, we could find ourselves in a position where we need all the friends we can get, and in turn much less likely to oppose Russia's dodgy behaviour.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. And by interesting I mean terrifying that it could get to the stage where Russia could influence foreign elections by essentially duping a percentage of the local population. We'll be sure to update you all on any developments in the coming weeks and months. [The Guardian via Engadget]