A Commons committee is to hold its first public evidence session as part of an inquiry into fake news.
The digital, culture, media and sport select committee, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, will hear from a panel of experts in Parliament on Tuesday.
They will explore the role that artificial intelligence and algorithms play in the dissemination of misinformation, and ways in which misinformation can be tackled, hearing from representatives from the Oxford Internet Institute and the University of Sheffield.
A second panel session, hearing evidence from the managing director of Spanish newspaper El Pais, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the Instituto de Empresa university in Madrid, will focus on alleged Russian influence in the Catalonian independence referendum.
Earlier this year, Collins wrote to both Facebook and Twitter to ask for details of any known activity by Russian-linked accounts relating to the 2017 general election and the EU referendum.
The social media giants said their own investigations had uncovered just nine adverts, but Collins said they had failed to give enough information.
“I asked Facebook to provide the committee with details relating to any adverts and pages paid for, or set up by Russian-linked accounts. In their response to the Electoral Commission, Facebook responded only with regards to funded advertisements to audiences in the UK from the around 470 accounts and pages run by the Russian based Internet Research Agency, which had been active during the US Presidential election,” he said.
“It would appear that no work has been done by Facebook to look for Russian activity around the EU referendum, other than from funded advertisements from those accounts that had already been identified as part of the US Senate’s investigation.
“No work has been done by Facebook to look for other fake accounts and pages that could be linked to Russian backed agencies and which were active during the EU referendum, as I requested.”
Collins said social networks should carry out more extensive research similar to that of Facebook’s investigation into the French presidential election, which identified tens of thousands of fake pages and accounts, and asked Facebook to submit a fuller response to the fake news inquiry.
“Are we to believe that Russian backed targeting of voters through social media with fake news was limited only to Twitter during the referendum, when both Twitter and Facebook had been used in the USA during the Presidential election?,” he said.
“I have met with Facebook and again asked them for a full response to my letter sent on behalf of the select committee on 19th October.
“This includes looking for Russian activity linked to the 2017 general election, as well as the EU referendum.”