EU loyalists and Remain-supporting media outlets are struggling to process news that “Russian trolls” spent less than a dollar on Facebook ads during the EU referendum.
The idea that the Kremlin “stole” the EU referendum through the dissemination of online memes and so-called “fake news” is a popular narrative among former Remain campaigners, who struggle to believe the public chose to reject the EU despite Barack Obama, the British government, and a host of global bodies and corporations coming down on its side.
An investigation into possible collusion was by the Electoral Commission was launched in response to persistent lobbying by Remainers such as Ben Bradshaw MP and Guardian/Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr — who recently won a British Journalism Aware for an article titled ‘Brexit, the ministers, the professor and the spy: how Russia pulls strings in UK’.
But it has just revealed that while the Internet Research Agency — an alleged “troll farm” — did spend money on Facebook adverts centred on immigration ahead of the referendum, total spending on them amounted to just $0.97 — around 73 pence — and only around 200 people saw them.
CONFIRMED: Russian trolls spent a MASSIVE seventy-three pence on Facebook ads about immigration during the Brexit referendum, seen by a WHOPPING two-hundred people! #SecondReferendumNow https://t.co/xfQ7r9L0hi
— Jack Montgomery ن (@JackBMontgomery) December 13, 2017
The establishment Financial Times newspaper, a staunch europhile outlet which once argued for Britain to join the crisis-wracked euro currency zone, chose to report this news under the arguably misleading headline ‘Russia-linked accounts were active on Facebook ahead of Brexit’.
Journalist Aliya Ram opened by saying Facebook had “admitted” that a “Russia-linked troll farm [was] active in the UK ahead of the Brexit vote” — before quietly revealing their ad spend was $0.97 in the next paragraph.
Business Insider, meanwhile, reported that Damian Collins — a backbencher described as a “a powerful British MP” — was infuriated by news that enquiries made to microblogging website Twitter only turned up referendum ad spending totalling well under than £1,000 (£768) by Russia’s government-funded broadcaster RT.
Collins seemed completely unable to accept that Russian “interference” in the referendum could have been so minimal, given how much noise “journalists and academics” have been making about it, and branded Twitter’s response to the Electoral Commission “completely inadequate”.