Russians were gaming Google for Trump

12 October, 2017, 01:03 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.   Drew Angerer  Getty Images

The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee's Russian Federation investigation said Wednesday they intend to publicly release thousands of politically divisive Facebook ads purchased by Russian Federation during last year's presidential election.

Google, the online giant and one of the world's largest advertising businesses, said it had "a set of strict ads policies including limits on political ad targeting and prohibitions on targeting based on race and religion".

A study published on Monday by researchers with the Oxford Internet Institute, which is affiliated with the British university, found that current US military personnel and veterans were targeted by disinformation campaigns on Twitter and Facebook over the past year by a nexus of pro-Kremlin, Russian-oriented sites, along with conspiracy theorists and European right-wing ideologues.

But after launching a review, the company found around $100,000 (£76,000) in ad spending potentially linked to Russian sources, according to a source. However, Twitter's analysis did not conclude whether RT's ad buys were related to attempts to influence the United States election.

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In a statement, a Microsoft spokesman told Gizmodo it had received reports indicating possible involvement and would take appropriate action if it turns out Russians did purchase ads on Bing, though they did not confirm whether it had found anything. However, Google's investigation has not found any evidence that the Russian ads used these categories or geographic parameters to target specific groups, the person said.

Facebook placed an ad in The New York Times and The Washington Post last week that tried to assure Americans - and advertisers - that it takes its inadvertent role in election interference seriously. A study by the Oxford Internet Institute, which is affiliated with the British Oxford University, found that current and former U.S. military personal were especially targeted by the Russian disinformation campaigns.

Amid calls for more transparency from the companies on this matter, some lawmakers are proposing legislation that would require Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to publicly disclose information about political ads on their platforms. The ads - viewed by 10 million U.S. users - in many instances sought to stir political unrest, often by riling viewers on divisive issues related to race, religion, immigration and gun control.

A spokesperson for Google said the company was "taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies", and that it would "provide assistance to ongoing inquiries".

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Twitter has not said how many times the Russian disinformation was shared.

The House intelligence committee will release copies of the election-related Facebook ads that were purchased by Russian-linked accounts, the committee leaders said Wednesday.

Google's probe is in its early stages, WP's sources said. Facebook has also declined to make the ads public.

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