Russian Fake News Brexit Row Is Sour Grapes -- What About Boris' Battle Bus?

Just when you thought things couldn't get more frosty between the UK Government and Facebook, along comes a blatant putdown from a minister of state over the social giant's investigation in to Russian interference in the Brexit vote.

Usually ministers, such as Culture Secretary Damian Collins, measure their words carefully so much that you don't have a clue what they're saying. Not this time.

The Culture Secretary has torn into Facebook for only looking at ads from one well-known source of Russian propaganda body, the Internet Research Agency. The finding was that from the 400 pages it controls, just 79p was spent on Facebook ads. This is the same organisation that had previously been found to have spent $100,000 on advertising during the US election.

The social giant was probably hoping this was the end of it, but Collins is angry that contrary to what he said he requested, Facebook has not looked for other fake news accounts to track if they were spending on advertising and if they were "bot" pages spreading misinformation.

To be honest, the worst they are likely to find is that there are a network of "bot" accounts pumping out pro-Russian sentiment that may well have sought to spread unease in the UK ahead of the Brexit vote. 

I would not suggest that propaganda accounts, particularly "bots," spreading fake news is not an issue. I do question its influence and the apportioning of so much blame from the side that lost the US election and the Remainers here in the UK.

To deal with the US, all I'd say is that $100k sounds like small beer to me. Unless there's a lot that has gone under the radar, I do wonder what influence that kind of budget has over a US election where millions are spent by the candidates.

To get on to more familiar territory, I'm really not sure whether there were bots spreading anti-EU sentiment during the vote. I saw none myself. What I did see was a lot of material from dissatisfied Brits who held an opposing view to my own. There may well have been accounts pumping out misinformation and fake news -- but I would say the one we all know about and would instantly recognise is the red battle bus.

For those who are unfamiliar with this outright electioneering lie, let me explain. The Brexiters had a battle bus with a slogan that the UK gives the EU GBP350m a week and it was time we kept that money for the NHS instead. It was a blatant lie because it didn't include the rebate we get back which equates to a net payment to the EU of around GBP8.5bn a year. Divide that by 52 and you get around GBP160m a week.

So the actual figure is around half that claimed, and let's not forget we are going to be leaving with a near GBP40bn divorce bill, according to estimates. So if anyone should be in the dock, it should be the guys who came up with that campaign. Instead, Boris Johnson, the main politician associated with the campaign, has been promoted to Foreign Secretary. 

If you want to pick out one bit of fake news that did more than any other to swing the vote, this was it. Nothing to do with Russia but our very own bumbling Boris and the Brexiters.

So there are two questions. Can the American election really be bought for $100k? I'd rather suspect the lobbyists pumping millions into the campaign would suggest not. And who's the real villain of the Brexit fake news debacle? it's not a Russian at all, is it? It's Boris and his chums. 

Another small issue is why Russia would want the UK to leave the EU. I have no idea what's in it for them, other than a weaker EU.

All that I ever read is how oligarchs go to great lengths to get a passport from a part of the EU with loose rules so they can reside in London. I simply don't see what Russia would get from the UK being outside the EU.

Trust me -- I've done the history bit for many years as a student. The first time anything goes wrong, that country's big enemy is blamed when actually people generally need to look far closer to home. Boris. All eyes are on you.

Next story loading loading..