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Joining Facebook and Twitter, Google has now been sucked into an investigation into how Russia influenced the US presidential elections last year.
The search engine giant has informed US Congressfolk digging into the issue that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars across its products – from video site YouTube to Gmail to its ubiquitous search – promoting divisive articles and videos to swing the White House race.
Purchases - Spent - Search - Ads - Account
Among the purchases are $4,700 spent on search ads through an account that Google says it has linked to the Russian government, and a further $53,000 in suspicious ads from Russian internet addresses or paid for with Russian roubles.
That is around a third of the $150,000 that Facebook had admitted was spent on its network promoting fake news designed to interfere with the election and almost certainly stemmed from the Russian government. And a fifth of the $274,000 that Twitter confessed had been spent pushing stories from Kremlin-backed Russia Today.
Sums - Fraction - Spend - Government - Effort
It is very possible that these sums are a fraction of the true spend by the Russian government in its effort to influence the American election. The social media giants have based their estimates on spending from obvious Russian government accounts, but it would not be difficult for a state actor to create dozens or hundreds of profiles using different countries and currencies. So far, we have yet to see the total ad spending on the types of articles the Russian government paid money to promote.
That step may yet come after Facebook bowed to Congressional pressure and handed over descriptions of the suspicious ads themselves, rather than just dollar figures, potentially allowing many more similar adverts to be identified. It could be, as one lawmaker noted, just the tip of the iceberg.
One interesting detail from Google's ad spend: they were used to push...
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