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Facebook wrestles with Brexit (and also with wrestlers)

We spend a lot of time around here blaming tech platforms for the unintended consequences of the tool
December 13 · Issue #46 · View online
The Interface
We spend a lot of time around here blaming tech platforms for the unintended consequences of the tools they build. And so today I’d like to give some credit where it’s due: Facebook and Twitter, as best as we can now determine, were not agents of Russian subterfuge leading up to the Brexit vote:
Facebook, confounding expectations, said on Wednesday that the company had found no evidence of a significant Russian effort to interfere in the British referendum last year on leaving the European Union.
In an emailed statement, Facebook said the Russian agency that had spent $100,000 advertising on its platform to influence the United States presidential election last year had spent only 97 cents on advertisements that were delivered to British users during the two months before the referendum, on June 23, 2016.
Those 97 cents bought three ads, all centered on immigration and aimed at American users, Facebook said. The ads were viewed just 200 times by British users over four days in May 2016, the company said.
Twitter has disclosed that Russian-backed accounts spent $1,031.99 to buy six Brexit-related ads on its platform during last year’s European Union referendum vote.
The ads in question were purchased during the regulated period for political campaigning in the June 2016 EU Referendum — specifically from 15 April to 23 June 2016.
Of course, that’s not to say the platforms played no role in Brexit. Certainly Britons used them to discuss the issue extensively. And larger questions around how platforms enable tribalism remain, at best, poorly understood. 
But when it came to Brexit, the Kremlin’s famed Internet Research Agency was almost nowhere to be found. Of course, back then, they didn’t know well how their tactics worked. When it comes time for the next big vote in the UK, I suspect they’ll take a much stronger interest. 

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And finally ...
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