Tuesday 22 October 2019

No evidence Russia interfered in Brexit via Facebook, says Nick Clegg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with company vice-president Nick Clegg. Photo: PA
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with company vice-president Nick Clegg. Photo: PA

Henry Vaughan

There is "absolutely no evidence" that Russia influenced the EU referendum result using Facebook, the tech giant's vice-president, Nick Clegg, has said.

The former UK deputy prime minister, who started working for the company last October, also dismissed claims that Cambridge Analytica swayed people's decision to vote Leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Up to 87 million people are believed to have had their data harvested by the political consultancy via a personality quiz app.

Mr Clegg told the BBC that Facebook had carried out analyses of its data and found no "significant attempt" by outside forces to influence the referendum result.

"Much though I understand why people want to sort of reduce that eruption in British politics to some kind of plot or conspiracy - or some use of new social media through opaque means - I'm afraid the roots to British Euroscepticism go very, very deep," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The former leader of the Liberal Democrats party claimed attitudes had been influenced far more by "traditional media" over the past four decades than by new media.

In February, the UK's House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published a report on disinformation and fake news.

The 18-month inquiry looked into the effects of social media on society, Facebook's handling of users' data and allegations that the official Brexit campaigns broke electoral law during the referendum.

MPs have called for greater regulation of tech companies and Mr Clegg said implementing new rules was not something they "can or should" do on their own.

"It's not for private companies, however big or small, to come up with those rules. It is for democratic politicians in the democratic world to do so," he said.

READ MORE: US judge orders Facebook to turn over data privacy records

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