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UK pressures Facebook for more on Russian election meddling

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Facebook is facing pressure from British lawmakers and academics to shed more light on potential Russian interference in British politics.

Members of the British parliament and experts believe that Russian actors have used Facebook to influence its politics more than the firm is letting on and want more answers from the Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm, according to The Guardian.

“Facebook has been very silent on this,” Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake told the Guardian.

Brake says he wants all major social media firms to “to explain what research they have undertaken into possible Russian manipulation of their sites.”

{mosads}So far, British politicians have been focused on how Russian actors used may have used Twitter to manipulate the political process.Member of Parliament Damian Collins of the Labour Party pushed the microblogging platform to release tweets generated by Russians intended to influence British elections.

The Times reported that Russian Twitter accounts promoted the U.K. leaving the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit, in advance of the referendum in 2016.

Twitter hasn’t released such tweets in the U.S., but has provided a list of names that it has been found to be associated with the Russia-based Internet Research Agency — a group with Kremlin ties that is believed to be a source of Russian attempts to influence foreign elections on social media.

Experts say that, despite the focus on Twitter, Russian actors used Facebook as well.

“I’m positive the network is very active on Facebook as well,”  Yin Yin Lu, a researcher at Oxford University, told the Guardian. But Lu says that it’s hard for researchers to access Facebook’s data to investigate this.

“Certainly if you’re making a fake social media account on one, you would also make an account on the other. But it’s only Facebook that can answer that question. There are no researchers that have access to Facebook data. You basically have to be Mark Zuckerberg himself,” she said.

Facebook says that it has not found evidence of manipulation around the time of the Brexit vote, at least.

“To date, we have not observed that the known, coordinated clusters in Russia engaged in significant coordination of ad buys or political misinformation targeting the Brexit vote,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill over email.

Britain’s Electoral Commission has also said that it’s speaking with Facebook on potential Russian election interference, but has not elaborated.

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