Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United Kingdom Facebook Government Social Networks The Media Twitter

Facebook Reopens Probe Into Russian Involvement in Brexit (techcrunch.com) 316

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: Facebook has said it will conduct a wider investigation into whether there was Russian meddling on its platform relating to the 2016 Brexit referendum vote in the UK. Wednesday its UK policy director Simon Milner wrote to a parliamentary committee that's been conducting a wide-ranging enquiry into fake news -- and whose chair has been witheringly critical of Facebook and Twitter for failing to co-operate with requests for information and assistance on the topic of Brexit and Russia -- saying it will widen its investigation, per the committee's request. Though he gave no firm deadline for delivering a fresh report -- beyond estimating "a number of weeks".

It's not clear whether Twitter will also bow to pressure to conduct a more thorough investigation of Brexit-related disinformation. At the time of writing the company had not responded to our questions either. At the end of last year committee chair Damian Collins warned both companies they could face sanctions for failing to co-operate with the committee's enquiry -- slamming Twitter's investigations to date as "completely inadequate", and expressing disbelief that both companies had essentially ignored the committee's requests... Independent academic studies have suggested there was in fact significant tweet-based activity generated around Brexit by Russian bots."

Theresa May has said Russia's attempts to "sow discord" in the West could not go unchallenged, and warned Vladimir Putin, "We know what you are up to."

Facebook's response complained that a new investigation "requires detailed analysis of historic data by our security experts, who are also engaged in preventing live threats to our service."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Facebook Reopens Probe Into Russian Involvement in Brexit

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 21, 2018 @08:43PM (#55974783)

    Yes! The Russians put nanobots into our brains and make us do their bidding!

    Damn I don't know if we will survive 40 more years! Somebody please! Turn off the internet!

  • Further Meddling (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @08:44PM (#55974791)
    I wonder if Russia is behind Facebook's reopening of this probe into Russian meddling in Brexit. If you're Russia it seems like the best way to stir up shit in opposing powers is to let them tear themselves in half over whether or not Russia was involved in influencing their government in some way.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 21, 2018 @08:52PM (#55974827)

      I wonder if Russia is behind alvinrod's commenting that Russia is behind Facebook's reopening of this probe into Russian meddling in Brexit. If you're Russia it seems like the best way to stir up shit in opposing powers is to let alvirond start some whataboutisms over whether or not Russia was involved in influencing Facebook reopining this probe into Russian meddling in Brexit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by alvinrod ( 889928 )
        I only wish I were getting paid for half of the shit I think up sometimes. The simple truth is that Russia probably doesn't even need to go to those lengths when the monsters are due on maple street [vimeo.com].

        I think we're already stuck in the kind of mental rut that the country was in after the September 11 attacks that resulted in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I doubt the consequences of this will be anywhere near as severe, but this is something that's clearly gained a life of its own. There may well be a k
      • I can tell you the view from ground zero, the people who voted for Brexit are not even able to use Facebook. They rely on the talk at the pub, and there they had the Romanians and Bulgarians to blame (highly visible as construction workers). Later the Bulgarian politicians started to make noise so only the Romanians were blamed.

        Brexit is nothing more than the voice of racism and for that there is not need for Russia or Farcebook to stir it.

        • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @09:08AM (#55977057) Journal

          Brexit is nothing more than the voice of racism

          It's only the fucking idiots that keep telling everybody they're racist that think that.

          Perhaps if the country had been able to properly debate the impacts of immigration and bring it under control without being accused of racism then people wouldn't have felt disenfranchised and used their one opportunity to vote against a status quo that didn't recognise or represent their interests.

          • There was a lot of debate before that, and it was dominated by Nigel Farage fanning the flames of racism. There was no reasonable discussion, just blame thrown at the immigrants.

            If you want debate in Britain, just talk to Jo Cox about it. That's right, she cannot talk since she was assassinated just before the Brexit vote, and for what ?

            For being moderate and not joining the chorus of voices blaming the immigrants.

    • by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @08:52PM (#55974829)
      Truth. Hillary Clinton was the real Russian agent.
    • I wonder if Russia is behind Facebook's reopening of this probe into Russian meddling in Brexit. If you're Russia it seems like the best way to stir up shit in opposing powers is to let them tear themselves in half over whether or not Russia was involved in influencing their government in some way.

      Russia uses online propaganda to meddle. If their decision to reopen the probe into Russian meddling in Brexit was based on online propaganda then they are more gullible than Trump voters.

      It seems extremely unlikely that Russia is going to draw unwanted attention to itself. The best course of action is for all parties to remain calm and wait for the outcome of the investigation. Now, if you doubt Facebook's own investigation then you are effectively claiming that Facebook is currently meddling in Brexit

      • The ability to blame Russia keeps the Democratic party from fixing it's internal corruption and winning elections. Russiagate has already made the entire American news system shit the bed over basic journalistic integrity and understanding which direction time moves in.
  • by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @08:47PM (#55974803) Homepage
    I see a lot of anonymous coward postings taking a "nothing to see here.. move along" stance... So sorry that Facebook looking into and possibly exposing something ruffles your delicate feathers so much...
    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @09:40PM (#55975065)
      The problem is something called sampling bias [wikipedia.org]. If you only look for meddling by Russia in only decisions you dislike, then you can only find meddling by Russia only in decisions you dislike. e.g. If your landlord claims your apartment is filthy and is the source of the cockroaches that everyone in the building has been complaining about, and he does an extensive search for roaches in your apartment and finds some, that doesn't prove his claim. For all we know, your apartment could be the cleanest one in the building, and if he'd done the same extensive search on the other apartments he would've found a lot more roaches. But by searching only your unit, he's abusing sampling bias - cherry picking data by only looking in certain places - to try to make it appear as if you're the one at fault.*

      If you want to investigate something like this in an objective manner, you need to look for meddling into all big political decisions by all foreign powers. This includes meddling by Facebook (a US corporation) abusing sampling bias to try to discredit the UK Brexit vote via a press release that millions if not tens of millions of Britons will hear about in the news..

      * In this case the statistical error (by Facebook) is intentional. But sampling bias can creep in unintentionally too. The classic example is a surveyor tasked with finding out how many hours city residents ride the subway on average, so the city can make better decisions on if subway service should be expanded. He starts off by asking random people on the street how often they ride the subway each week. He grows frustrated that most people don't ride the subway at all, making it difficult for him to gather the required minimum number of positive responses to minimize the margin of error. Then he's struck with inspiration. He'll simply got aboard a subway train and ask the riders how many hours they ride each week. Since everyone on the subway must be subway riders, that'll neatly filter out all the non-riders he's been wasting his time with.

      The problem is when you ask people riding on the subway instead of random people on the street, the odds of you encountering a heavy subway user are higher. e.g. If 80% of subway riders ride the subway 1 hour a week, and 20% ride it 10 hours a week, you are 2.5x as likely to sample a 10 hr/wk rider than you are a 1 hr/wk rider simply because they're on the subway a lot longer. So the statistical data you gather this way ends up biased high by your sampling method.
      • At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, it makes perfect sense to scrutinise tactics more closely if they actually worked. If Russians had hypothetically meddled to try to get a "yes" in the Scottish independence vote, that wouldn't be as big a deal because it didn't work.

        Same if they had tried to engineer a Bernie Sanders victory.

      • This is not sampling bias. It's answering a question that is less general than the question you're asking. To wit, did Russia influence the Brexit election to a large degree? Totally different questions are "Did Russia influence other elections" and "Did France influence the Brexit vote".

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        There is also outliers https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] in association with very large numbers of samples. Start with big enough numbers and the tiniest percentage becomes a large number. So start with a trillion posts and how many posts, fit in any claim will end up being a large number, in the hundreds of thousands but as a percentage it is pretty much invisible, an outlier to be ignored. Now create that large number outlier, like say 10,000 people with shared interests, make one post per day, which is n

      • When the Times of London reported that researchers who were working on an another study had identified 156,252 Twitter accounts with Russian as their language, had posted messages in English to argue against the European Union during the Brexit referendum, was that sampling bias? This is international politics not statistics or science with complex cases of cause and effect.

        See: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/art... [thetimes.co.uk]

        Russian Twitter accounts posted more than 45,000 messages about Brexit in 48 hours during l

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          The thing is, I suspect most people that voted to leave the EU don't follow Russian twitter accounts. I voted to leave and I follow no twitter accounts.

          Meanwhile there were a large number of British politicians and other public figures speaking very eloquently (and/or talking out of their arse) about leaving the EU. The vote to leave happened because a large number of British people were genuinely unhappy with the state of the country and didn't need Russia or anybody else to tell them that something needed

      • If you only look for meddling by Russia in only decisions you dislike, then you can only find meddling by Russia only in decisions you dislike

        We know that a lot of fake Russian accounts were just sowing discord, not targeting particular issues. In the US they have pretended to be BLM and AntiFa on one hand, and neo Nazis and Trump supporters on the other. They understand that a heavily polarized and divided country full of misinformation tends to break our fragile democracies, which are basically winner takes all.

        A lot of the fake UK accounts were just spouting xenophobic rubbish to stir up anger. A smaller number advocated for Brexit directly, usually pretending to be people from outside London in order to push the "out-of-touch political elite" narrative.

        • Well, the Brits generally are quite xenophobic anyway so there is no real need to stir up anything.

          • by Cederic ( 9623 )

            The Brits say a lot that's xenophobic, especially regarding the French, but if you look at their actions there's remarkably little xenophobia going on.

            The population of London is down to 45% White British, that doesn't exactly sound to me like foreigners are unwelcome. That sounds to me like the capital of my own country is more foreign than native.

            Where are the gangs of Brits roaming the cities across the nation, hunting down foreigners and assaulting them? They don't exist.
            Where are the managers and compa

    • Surely you don't think Russian agents would have to post anonymously. The would have well established and trusted aliases.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      People all over the UK voted to exit the EU.
      "Russians" did not drive out of the embassy and "vote" a lot all over the UK to sway the result.
      Real citizens all over the UK wanted out of the EU and the vote results reflected that.
  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @08:47PM (#55974805)

    "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War's been over for 20 years" - Barack Obama, third presidential debate, Oct. 22, 2012

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Oh, I get it! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @08:49PM (#55974817)
    When the Russians actually fund Communist and Green parties and generally support left-wing agitation, there's nothing to see here. But when people vote right-of-center, it must be a Russian conspiracy!
    • Re:Oh, I get it! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @09:30PM (#55975007) Homepage
      What are you talking about? There's been a massive amount of attention to Russian support of Jill Stein. This has included aspects of Senate investigations https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/19/jill-stein-trump-russia-investigation-documents [theguardian.com]. There were many mainstream media reports on it such as https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/why-are-senate-russia-investigators-interested-jill-stein-n831261 [nbcnews.com] and https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/12/senate-intelligence-committee-jill-stein-russia [vanityfair.com].
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @09:26PM (#55974987) Homepage
    but it was Mays own party that proposed Brexit on a gamble. After the country actually voted in favour of it, 3 separate politicians assumed responsibility for the fiasco and each stepped aside as the brakes were nowhere to be found on this train. Even Boris Johnson had a swing at the corpulent trashbag known as Brexit. the UK even went so far as to say the legislation was somehow nonbinding, and when pressed by the EU to exist in a timely fashion had the audacity to demand "a good deal" in exchange for leaving. They did not in fact get a deal.

    now may's trying again, desparately, to save face and pin the blame on russia? Seriously? At some point someone has to call her bluff and ask what strategic or tactical advantage Russia gains by sabotaging a nation into exile from a trade group russia already has formal relations with (the EU)? In other words, why would russia intentionally make it more cumbersome to trade with the UK?
    • Yes. May made a poorly calculated risk, just like Clinton did. So, both blame Russia.
      • Yes. May made a poorly calculated risk, just like Clinton did. So, both blame Russia.

        Huh? Poorly calculated because they didn't account for Russian interference? What would a well calculated risk have looked like?

        • In May's case: NOT trying to gain political power by having a Brexit referendum that you didn't actually want to pass.
          In Clinton's case: NOT telling Trump to run. NOT having your campaign ask the media to take Trump seriously (a.k.a. the "Pied Piper" strategy). NOT sabotaging her primary opponent. NOT nominating a VP whose picture was in the dictionary next to 'milquetoast.' NOT giving highly paid speeches to banks that destroyed the global economy. Stepping foot in the Rust Belt. Supporting popular
          • by Cederic ( 9623 )

            Theresa May wasn't Prime Minister in the run-up to the referendum, or indeed for a few days after.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        May is out of her depth. After the Brexit vote no-one wanted the job really. They all knew it would be a disaster and were just figured that now was their one and likely only opportunity to be PM. May won by default as everyone else self-destructed, and then found herself with no plan and no idea what to do.

        All she could do was repeat meaningless slogans like the infamous "Brexit means Brexit", and set up other ministers to take the fall when the inevitable happened.

        The election was a huge misjudgement. She

    • by coastwalker ( 307620 ) <acoastwalker@ho[ ]il.com ['tma' in gap]> on Sunday January 21, 2018 @10:18PM (#55975223) Homepage

      Russia is under trade sanctions with the EU for invading Ukraine. Russia would also like to reassert influence over more of Eastern Europe and the EU stands in their way. Brexit is mana from heaven for their geopolitical ambitions.

    • Fiasco? That's the kind of attitude that hates democracy and loves autocratic governments. The British people voted for it, and if it's inconvenient, then that's just tough shit. You don't get to overturn voting because you don't agree with it. British sovereignty is more important than other goals. If the EU had made its people a priority this would never have happened. But the EU doesn't represent the people of Europe and that is not something the British people want to be a part of. We must respect their
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      but it was Mays own party that proposed Brexit on a gamble. After the country actually voted in favour of it, 3 separate politicians assumed responsibility for the fiasco and each stepped aside as the brakes were nowhere to be found on this train. Even Boris Johnson had a swing at the corpulent trashbag known as Brexit. the UK even went so far as to say the legislation was somehow nonbinding, and when pressed by the EU to exist in a timely fashion had the audacity to demand "a good deal" in exchange for leaving. They did not in fact get a deal.

      now may's trying again, desparately, to save face and pin the blame on russia? Seriously? At some point someone has to call her bluff and ask what strategic or tactical advantage Russia gains by sabotaging a nation into exile from a trade group russia already has formal relations with (the EU)? In other words, why would russia intentionally make it more cumbersome to trade with the UK?

      I'm not a fan of the conservatives... but this isn't May's doing. If May really wants to put the brakes on Brexit, we'd have a second referendum, certainly enough people and parliamentarians are calling for one. Not even the Daily Mail can continue to pretend that Brexit is popular or going well.

      Russian interference isn't the cause of Brexit. Propaganda is, but the Propagandists are much closer to home.

  • Russiagaters are getting more and more desperately pathetic with each passing day. this pic [pics.me.me] about sums it up. Anything and everything can be and will be blamed on Russia, because we need a distraction from how horrible Hillary and her party are to lose the most winnable election in history.

    • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Sunday January 21, 2018 @11:09PM (#55975391)

      Russiagaters are getting more and more desperately pathetic with each passing day.
      ...
      Anything and everything can be and will be blamed on Russia,

      Actually, only online propaganda and hacking has been blamed on Russia. We know Russia has excellent hackers and buildings full of online propagandists, so it seems like a logical conclusion that they have been using them.

      because we need a distraction from how horrible Hillary and her party are to lose the most winnable election in history.

      It's 2018 and the Republicans have controlled both Congress and the Presidency for over a year, so why are you bringing up the 2016 elections? At this rate, I swear it's 2037 and one of you retards with a faded MAGA hat is going to tell me about how that Trump and Republicans won and that I should accept it. Seriously, we get it!

      • by Uberbah ( 647458 )

        Actually, only online propaganda and hacking has been blamed on Russia.

        And trying to hack an electrical grid. And voting machines. And invading Crimea. And invading Ukraine.

        We know Russia has excellent hackers and buildings full of online propagandists, so it seems like a logical conclusion that they have been using them.

        Uh huh. Without going to Google, can you name a single instance of such propaganda efforts, backed up by actual evidence and not hysterical accusations. Next, how does it compare to th

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        It's 2018 and the Republicans have controlled both Congress and the Presidency for over a year, so why are you bringing up the 2016 elections? At this rate, I swear it's 2037 and one of you retards with a faded MAGA hat is going to tell me about how that Trump and Republicans won and that I should accept it. Seriously, we get it!

        Remember that the people demanding you "accept" Trump are the same ones that spent 8 years trying to defame Obama by demanding his birth certificate (even when one was provided, they wouldn't let it go).

        Personally, no leader deserves automatic support. I say judge a leader by their actions... Trump has not performed well there either.

  • ...who's interest is it in with depopulating Syria, and causing the refugee mess in Europe.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There have been a lot of media reports of massive Russian meddling in the Brexit campaign, but the first investigation found they spent £0.73:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/12/13/facebook-russians-spent-just-73-pence-ads-brexit-campaign/

    Of course, this didn't stop the left wing media claiming there was Russian involvement. Sure, if they spent £0.73 then there was Russian involvement, but the scale of involvement has been intentionally misrepresented.

    What the leftists can't seem to h

  • I'm just waiting for Facebook to investigate if Russians made Han Solo shoot first...
  • EVERYONE RUN! This ludicrous-excuse is out of control! AARrRHRHggGgHGHghghGHGHGHhHhhHHHhhhHHH!
  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Monday January 22, 2018 @06:17AM (#55976575)
    In the specific case of Brexit, there are two different challenges to consider.

    The first is whether or not *any* foreign government had the ability to influence the preferences of the British people when it came to the vote. I notice that much discussion is being given to the potential for Russian meddling, but I also note that nobody batted an eye when Barak Obama not only made very pro-Brexit comments, but also made it very clear that if Britain elected to vote to leave, then Britain would be put to "the back of the queue" when it came to negotiating a trade deal with the US.

    Or how about the fact that the government of the day spent literally millions of pounds of Tax-Payers money to fund their part of the campaign, by physically posting their views to every single household in the country via a mail-dropped leaflet. This was clearly an attempt at influencing public opinion, and the money to do so was spent only by the "Remain" campaign, because that happened to be the position taken by the Prime Minister of the day [not even the "Government of the Day", seeing as how numerous ministers favoured leaving].

    So the first issue is a pretty specious point, really. However accurate and however valid the point is, it's largely irrelevant to point to some underhand foreign government meddling in the Brexit vote when the standing UK Government of the day were tilting the odds so far the other way...

    The second point concerns the foundation of democracy itself. The final Brexit vote was split 52:48 (%) in favour of leaving the EU. This vote, which was operated on 100% democratic principles [i.e. of "one person, one vote" - and not the "first pass the post" method used for UK General Elections], was a significantly stronger vote in favour of an outcome than any UK General Election in living memory. For example, when David Cameron [who was Prime Minister at the time] won his second term in office, he secured 44% of the popular vote.

    44%. The Brexit vote secured 52% - an outright majority. Yet Cameron was returned to Government with a large majority... Even more curiously, nobody demanded a recount or a second General Election even though he only won 44% of the vote... [OK, cheeky argument, since the two events were handled under different rules]. But the point stands.

    You only have to look at the way that political elites have reacted to the vote - one in which the British people had the temerity to vote for what they actually wanted - to see how important this vote was. Since the decision was made the EU has gone out of it's way to try and bully, cajole, frighten or threaten the UK into having a second Referendum to overturn the first decision.

    Whether or not you agree with the decision to leave the EU, this external force from the EU, which is a million times worse than any influence Russia could have brought to bear, must be resisted at ALL costs. If the UK caves then there is nothing to stop the EU from becoming a totalitarian state - which might sound a bit melodramatic, but consider the significance of a state which simply sets aside democratic decisions because they are not what the elite wants.

    We would do well to remember that the more we allow ourselves to be torn up by this, the better it is for Russia or any foreign state with an axe to grind.

    Hilary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 Presidential Election, but didn't undermine the electoral process with protest court cases. The UK should look to that example and respect the decision.

    And if the UK or other countries want to make material improvements, then there is nothing to stop them from putting more effort into stamping out voting fraud, is there? Don't see much on that topic...
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Barak Obama not only made very pro-Brexit comments, but also made it very clear that if Britain elected to vote to leave, then Britain would be put to "the back of the queue" when it came to negotiating a trade deal with the US.

      It's rather different for POTUS to respond to questions from journalists, and for Russia to create a clandestine propaganda operation to create fake social media accounts. One is done in the open with full knowledge of who is speaking and in what context, the other is deliberately designed to mislead.

      And as it happens Obama was right. Despite what Trump later said, he seems to have little interest in the UK and any possible trade deal is likely to be a low priority and extremely shitty. In fact he mentions

  • What if Putin tries to influence the Brexit's outcome with media reports about possible influence over Brexit's outcome by Putin?

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.

Working...