UK presses Facebook on Russia-linked ads

The Facebook logo is seen on an Apple iPhone in this photo illsutration on 28 August, 2017. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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A British parliamentary committee has written to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg asking for information on any paid-for activity by Russian-linked Facebook accounts around the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 UK election.

The request was made by Damian Collins, chair of parliament's Digital, Media and Sport Committee as part of its effort to gather evidence for an inquiry it is conducting into fake news.

"Part of this inquiry will focus on the role of foreign actors abusing platforms such as yours to interfere in the political discourse of other nations," Mr Collins wrote in a letter to Zuckerberg circulated to media by the committee.

He asked Facebook to provide examples of all adverts bought by Russian-linked accounts, of all pages set up by Russian-linked accounts, information on the targeting of such adverts and pages and how many times they were viewed.

"I believe that the information I have requested is in line with that already supplied to Facebook to several United States Senate Committees, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, in relation to the 2016 US presidential election," wrote Mr Collins.

The committee of British MPs launched its inquiry into fake news in January but it was suspended when a general election was called for June. The closing date for submitting evidence is November 7.

The inquiry aims to shed light on issues such as the impact of fake news on public understanding of the world and response to traditional journalism, the responsibilities of social media platforms and how people can be educated to assess news sources.

Facebook said on October 2 that some 10 million people in the United States saw politically divisive ads on its network that were purchased in Russia in the months before and after the presidential election.

Russia has denied interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.