Dado Ruvic / Reuters
US social media giants have said they're ready to cooperate with a UK probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 EU referendum.
In letters released by the House of Commons culture, media, and sport committee, Facebook and Twitter confirmed they'll cooperate with the UK inquiry into what happened on their platforms around the time of Brexit and the 2017 general election.
According to Facebook's letter to the inquiry, the US company had also been asked by the Electoral Commission to look at Russian interference, adding that it'll aim to report back to both probes by the second week of December.
“We have also been contact by the Electoral Commission's Head of Regulation as they carry out their work looking at possible Russian interference in the Brexit referendum,” said Facebook's Simon Milner. “We understand that similar letters have been sent by the Electoral Commission to relevant officers in Google and Twitter.
“We are now considering how we can best respond to the Electoral Commission's request for information and expect to be able to respond to them by the second week of December.”
Twitter's Nick Pickles said the company would be hoping to report “in the coming weeks”, and went on to defend Twitter bots from recent harsh criticism in the media.
“We are currently undertaking investigations into these questions and intend to share our findings in the coming weeks,” said Pickles.
“It is important to note that not all automated accounts are bad, whether posting air quality sensor readings or posting details of Wikipedia edits, while not all high activity accounts are bots. Equally, given Twitter’s central control — users choosing to follow or unfollow an account to curate what appears in their timeline — is a robust defence against low-quality automated accounts.”
The committee, chaired by Tory MP Damian Collins, wrote to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey last month, asking them to produce whatever evidence existed that Russian-linked groups had tried to interfere in recent British elections.
On Tuesday, Collins said British citizens had a “right” to know how the platforms had been used around the time of Brexit and the 2017 election.
“The British public have a right to understand the extent and scope of Russia’s disinformation campaign in the United Kingdom,” Collins said.
“The agreement of both Facebook and Twitter to provide the information that I requested to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is critical to our understanding of Russian interference in our political process.”
It comes less than a week after BuzzFeed News uncovered a new network of Russian-linked troll accounts that had not been previously declared by Twitter to the US Congress.