Facebook Widens Probe Into Alleged Russian Interference in Brexit

Facebook Inc. said Wednesday that it was broadening its investigation into whether Russia attempted to meddle in the 2016 referendum on Britain's membership in the European Union, after its earlier probe found only a minimal amount of activity.

In response to a request from a committee of U.K. lawmakers, Facebook said it was looking to see whether there were coordinated attempts at interference that it hadn't previously identified.

"We are committed to making all reasonable efforts to establish whether or not there was coordinated activity similar to which was found in the U.S. and will report back to you as soon as the work has been completed, " Simon Milner, Facebook's U.K. policy director, wrote in a letter to U.K. lawmaker Damian Collins. He asked Britain to provide any relevant intelligence assessment to Facebook.

Mr. Collins, a Conservative lawmaker who chairs a parliamentary committee on media and culture, said he welcomed Facebook's response after the company had previously resisted the committee's calls to deepen its investigation. "Facebook has a responsibility. They recognize the seriousness of the problem and that lots of people, Parliaments and governments are really concerned about it," he said.

He added Facebook suggested its research will take a few weeks.

The U.K. government has said it has found no evidence that Russia successfully interfered in its democratic processes, including the Brexit vote, and Russia denies any allegations. But British lawmakers in recent months have called for the government to report on the extent to which Moscow may have sought to influence the Brexit referendum.

Mr. Collins said he believes there is a growing body of evidence that Russia interfered in the referendum. His committee in October asked Facebook, Twitter Inc. and other internet companies to provide information about how the Russian government used social media accounts to influence the Brexit vote and the 2017 election. The request was part of an inquiry the committee is conducting on fake news.

Write to Jenny Gross at jenny.gross@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 17, 2018 16:17 ET (21:17 GMT)