Russian 'troll factory' active in EU referendum

Twitter says accounts linked to a notorious Russian ‘troll factory’ sent messages about Brexit during the EU referendum campaign.

Twitter found 49 accounts in total which were linked to the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency.

The announcement was made during a hearing of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into fake news.

It took evidence from YouTube, Facebook, Google and Twitter in Washington DC.

Twitter’s UK head of public policy, Nick Pickles, told the House of Commons committee that the accounts amounted to less than 0.005% of those tweeting about the referendum, and received “very low levels of engagement” from other users.

YouTube told the cross-party committee it had found no evidence of Russian sources using ads on its site to attempt to interfere in the 2016 referendum.

Its global head of public policy, Juniper Downs, said YouTube would be ready to help further investigations into possible Russian attempts to influence votes in Britain.

Facebook said it had taken down thousands of fake accounts in the run-up to 2017 elections in the UK, France and Germany – although they were not necessarily aimed at spreading false information.

Mr Pickles told the committee that the accounts posted 942 tweets, which represents “less than 0.02% of the total tweets posted about the referendum during the campaign”.

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This amounted to fewer than 10 likes and 13 retweets per account, which was “a very low level of engagement”, he said.

Twitter’s US director of public policy, Carlos Monje, told the committee that a total of 3,814 accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency had been identified and suspended since 2015.


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