A Facebook exec said “absolutely no evidence” exists that the social network’s users were influenced by Russian hacktivists in the 2016 Brexit poll.
“We have found no evidence of a significant attempt by outside forces” to sway votes, Nick Clegg told the BBC on Monday. He is the vice president of global affairs and communications at Facebook.
Clegg said they ran two studies with data from the run-up to the withdrawal vote to check for traces of foreign meddling.
Facebook used the same approach to identify potential Russian interference during the 2016 US presidential election.
Russia has denied interfering with the Brexit referendum.
The UK government has said that it has no evidence of foreign actors such as Russia of successfully influencing the British democratic process.
A former UK deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats party, Clegg became Facebook’s communications head last year. He is known to favor UK’s presence in the EU.
Local politics is fragile in the country. The public and Westminster have different views over issue of the UK’s membership.
Brexit is a key issue among UK leadership seekers. Brexiteer Boris Johnson has been slated as the favorite to win.
Facebook’s appointment of Clegg last year was in the midst of intensified scrutiny against the social network.
Facebook’s name emerged during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Watchdogs found that the defunct political consultancy firm harvested data from millions of Facebook users to influence voters of the 2016 US presidential elections.
While some critics saw Cambridge Analytica guilty, Clegg said that the data analytics firm had no fault over the upshot of the Brexit referendum.
“I’m afraid the roots to British euroskepticism go very, very deep, and candidly, over the last 40 years, have been much more influenced by traditional media than the new media,” Clegg said.
Facebook has faced growing demands to focus more on user privacy, and to stop fake news and hate speech. The firm has been pushing for a more privacy-focused social network.
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg even demanded stricter internet rules earlier this year.
Clegg echoed Zuckerberg’s message on Monday, saying legislators are trying to catch up with the growth of big tech firms by setting up new rules.
“It’s not for private companies, however big or small, to come up with those rules,” he said.
“It is for democratic politicians and the democratic world to do so; on privacy, on how elections are conducted, on hateful content, all those things.”