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    Moscow Surprised by UK Initiative to Probe Russia's Influence on Brexit Vote

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    The Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, has commented on the UK initiative to investigate Russia's alleged role in using social media to influence the Brexit vote in an interview with Sputnik.

    LONDON (Sputnik) — Russia is surprised by a UK lawmaker's initiative to investigate Russia's possible use of social media to influence the Brexit referendum and June's general elections, according to the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Alexander Yakovenko.

    "You know, we are surprised by this inquiry because the decision to hold a referendum was made by the previous Conservative government. We had nothing to do with this decision," Yakovenko told Sputnik.

    The ambassador has recalled that at that time the UK government under David Cameron had made the decision on the referendum.

    "If we talk about the alleged Russian interference in this process, then the question arises about what the British government actually is because it's hard for us even to imagine that someone in Russia could have influenced the British government."

    READ MORE: Following Washington's Lead: UK Parl't Seeks Facebook Data on Russia-Linked Ads

    A Probe is Yet to Come?

    The Russian ambassador's comment comes just a day after the UK Parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee had announced that it had written a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, requesting information on the use of Facebook advertising and pages by Russia-linked accounts ahead of the 2017 Brexit referendum and this year’s general election.

    Previously, UK opposition lawmaker Ben Bradshaw called on the government to investigate "widespread concern over foreign, and particularly Russian, interference in Western democracies," in particular, during the Brexit campaign. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is also carrying out an investigation into the phenomenon of fake news allegedly used during major political campaigns.

    This recent request to Facebook marks the UK following in the footsteps of the United States where the executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter are expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee on November 1 to testify about alleged Russian-sponsored ads on US social media platforms during the electoral campaign. For its part, a House panel has started investigating the issue.

    In September, Facebook said that Russia-linked entities allegedly bought $100,000 worth of political advertisements in a two-year period up to May of this year. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the panel plans to make public the Facebook ads that allegedly were purchased by the Russia-backed accounts.

    The mainstream media has also contributed to blowing the story out of proportion. Earlier this month, The Washington Post ran a story claiming an investigation by Google had uncovered Russia’s attempts to influence the election by purchasing digital ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms. The newspaper cited unnamed "people familiar with the investigation" as sources while the company itself refused to comment. The report has not been confirmed since it was published.

    Related:

    Twitter Plans New Advertising Rules to Increase Transparency of Political Ads
    Following Washington's Lead: UK Parl't Seeks Facebook Data on Russia-Linked Ads
    'Huge Pushback' From Tech Giants Against Senate Efforts to Regulate Internet Ads
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