Is Facebook Avoiding The Truth On Brexit And Russia?

Sir Nick Clegg has been working overtime spinning for his employer, Facebook.

Judging by his pronouncements this week, it is clear that the social media giant is terrified of being broken up -- so much so that he claimed yesterday that governments should get behind the platform because it was a lot better than allowing Chinese censorship to take over the internet.

It is an extraordinary piece of misdirection, or at the least steering a potential truth in the direction you want it to travel.

Does Sir Nick really think the West will allow Chinese censorship to be exported here? Does he dispute reports that Facebook is actually working with the Chinese authorities to allow a third party to edit and regulate the site in China so they feel comfortable enough to unblock it?

It beggars belief, but not quite as much as his blanket statement that there was no Russian interference in Brexit.

Now, to start with, we have to bear in mind that there are legal threats flying around this morning regarding the journalist Carole Cadwalladr, who helped to break the Cambridge Analytica story, which have been issued by Leave.EU donor Arron Banks.

The threat of court action surrounds an accusation of how he is funded, or at least, who has offered him funding.

It is worth bearing in mind that Banks is under formal investigation from the National Crime Agency on suspicion that he was not the true source of GBP8m he pumped into campaigning for Brexit. His subsequent funding of Nigel Farage is also under investigation by the European Parliament. 

That is a potential fly in the ointment of Sir Nick Clegg's argument -- albeit one that concerns an investigation that has not, at the time of writing, resulted in charges being brought against Arron Banks. 

What truly undermines his argument, however, is a report issued earlier this year by campaigners at 89up.

Damian Collins, the MP who has repeatedly invited Mark Zuckerberg to answer questions in parliament, went so far as to call out Sir Nick this morning with a link to the report

Essentially, analysis of Facebook posts that were pro-Brexit from Russia Today and the Sputnik news agency received around 130m impressions, more than three times the combined reach of articles produced by Vote Leave and Leave.EU.

Russian bots, the report alleges, boosted posts by 10m impressions -- roughly around a third of the reach of the Leave.EU account. This means Russian state influence in the campaign, the researchers suggest, would have had a value of around GBP1.4m to GBP4m worth of support. 

It may comes as little surprise, then, to hear that at the start of the year Facebook deleted several hundred pages linked to the Kremlin-backed Sputnik news agency. 

I would invite anyone to consider all of the above and then ask themselves whether they truly believe Sir Nick is correct in saying there is no evidence of Russian interference in the Brexit vote. 

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