It’s Google’s turn to face the idea that Russia may have exploited their advertisement business to spread disinformation over the past year. Facebook was the subject of scrutiny in recent weeks over revelations of similar significant Russian exploits of the social network during the 2016 US Presidential election in the USA. Word comes from sources familiar with Google’s investigation who’ve spoken on condition of anonymity with The Independent.
The report suggests that Russian agents spent near $100,000 on advertising with Google products like YouTube, Google Search, Gmail, and through Google’s DoubleClick ad network. Google is said to be currently investigating the extent at which this collection of ad buys influenced the 2016 election. Google also recently pulled Russia’s RT network from their preferred program.
It’s also suggested by the same source that Google used information shared by Twitter in a similar investigation. Twitter, in turn, used Facebook’s shared batch of information to find Russia-linked accounts responsible for disinformation and/or politically-charged content.
Facebook revealed a series of ad buys linked to 470 Facebook Pages and accounts “likely operated out of Russia.” Ad buys from Russian entities racked up around $100,000 USD for around 3,000 ads targeted at US citizens. These messages focused on “amplifying divisive social and political messages” during the past year. They were careful to say that not all of the ads were directly related to the election – but “4% of total ad impressions (number of times ads were displayed) were before the US election on November 8, 2016.”
“The 2016 US election was the first where evidence has been widely reported that foreign actors sought to exploit the internet to influence voter behavior,” said Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Policy and Communications. The full report there can be found on Facebook.
Twitter also found similar social networking ad buys coming from Russia over the past year. In their investigation of this series of events, they found a reported $274,100 in Russia-bought U.S. ads in 2016, and approximately 1,823 Tweets that “definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market. This report came after Facebook’s recent announcement of finding hundreds of Russia-backed and/or Russia-sourced accounts aiming to influence the 2016 US presidential election.