Officials from the United Kingdom have been pushing Twitter and Facebook to investigate whether accounts that are based on Russian tried to influence the Brexit vote in 2016. Earlier responses from both social media platforms were discovered to be inadequate by the chair of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee of the United Kingdom and both companies were requested to do better. Currently, it was reported by BuzzFeed News that Twitter has in fact discovered some evidence regarding Russian meddling, albeit little in scope.
Nick Pickles, the UK policy chief of Twitter, informed the House of Commons select committee during a hearing that has taken place today in Washington DC that 49 accounts that are linked to the Internet Research Agency of Russia tweeted 942 times collectively during the Brexit campaign. The posts were retweeted 461 times and liked for 637 times.
Pickles stated: “Forty-nine such accounts were active during the referendum campaign, which represents less than 0.005% of the total number of accounts that tweeted about the referendum.”
A spokesperson from Twitter told reporters: “As we noted in our previous letters to the Committee, our investigation has been ongoing and has not been limited to the information requested by the Committee or the Electoral Commission.” The information above were confirmed by the commission and stated: “These tweets cumulatively were retweeted 461 times and were liked 637 times. On average this represents fewer than 10 likes per account and fewer than 13 retweets per account during the campaign, with most accounts receiving two or fewer likes and retweets. These are very low levels of engagement.”
That is quite a small amount of tweets, each with very low engagement, even though there no information was provided on how many people may have noticed the 942 tweets that are in question. However, as the social media giant has continued to look into the involvement of Russia with the presidential election of the United States, the number of users who interacted with accounts that are backed by Russia keeps increasing. While only time will be able to tell if that is also the case for activities that are related to Brexit, the investigation of the United States suggests that number could likely increase.
The House of Commons select committee is set to hear testimonies from representatives of YouTube, Facebook, and Google as well.