Brexit Vote Was Clear -- Why Ask Facebook To Search For Russian Trolls?

Does anyone have a clue what Facebook is expected to find regarding the Brexit vote and Russian trolls? And what is anyone supposed to make of whatever it is they may find?

Pretty sure I haven't got a clue? We've already had the finding that less than a dollar was spent by a Russian agency on pro-Brexit ads during the campaign. Still, the Government wasn't satisfied, and now we have a commitment from Facebook that it's going to look at the issue again. Specifically, it appears, the social media giant is going to look at what has been described as clusters of accounts that appear to have originated from Russia and which pumped out pro-Leave posts. 

Now, if there really are a significant number of accounts that were, perhaps automatically, firing off posts that wanted the UK to leave, there may be something there to point at. If the accounts were also paying a fortune to promote their posts, then again, there might be something to gawk at. 

The trouble is, I can point investigators toward loads of British accounts from people I know who were pro-Leave. I could do the same with countless Brits who were backing Hillary over Trump with all kinds of accusations about the eventual winner's personal life and political views. Does that mean they were foreigners interfering in the US election?

The wonderful series Homeland picked up on what could be the nightmare scenario. In the show, a crazed right-wing tv show host was behind a massive building full of people running fake social media accounts through which they pumped out propaganda.

if that's what Facebook uncovers, then that would indeed be something. If there was a massive attempt to undermine our democracy, that would be highly worth of note, and steps would need to be taken to close the accounts and put in a system that prohibits such coordinated activity. 

But even if that was the case, people would have to be receptive to the message. They would need to follow and engage with the people behind the accounts. 

That's why there's a simpler reason for Brexit, which Remainers are having difficulty with. It's what people voted for it. Narrowly, yes, but a victory is still a victory. Sadly, I was on the losing side, as was arguably the majority of people working in adland. 

Ultimately, the EU didn't take the warning from former Prime Minister David Cameron seriously enough, and the UK voted to leave. The reasons are pretty clear. The country felt the free movement of people placed too much strain on our national services -- such as social security, housing, education and the NHS -- and they wanted to, in their words, "take back control" from Brussels.

If you want one bit of dodgy propaganda to pursue, it's that infamous red battle bus claiming we send GBP350m a week to Brussels and it should go on our NHS instead. The slogan missed the point that half of that money comes back as a rebate. That is the one piece of misinformation that did more to cause Brexit than any number of Russian trolls, who may or may not exist.

Here's the irony. The more educated and young you were, the more likely you were to vote Remain. The older generation, who won it for Nigel Farage and co, just aren't on Facebook. The vote was lost because millennials didn't really think we'd vote to Leave and so didn't bother casting the vote. A lesson for us all, right there. 

If there is evidence of an automated, coordinated attempt to undermine our democracy, tools will be needed to fend it off. But let's not get carried away and pretend the vote was swung by posts from an underground bunker in Moscow.

The country voted to leave for very clear reasons, and had millennials gone home from work or lectures via a polling booth, it would have been a very different result. It was the very people on Facebook who didn't vote that caused us to opt to Leave. Can the Government seriously not see the irony in a Facebook enquiry?

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