First it was Facebook who fessed up to the fact that Russians did purchase ads targeting voters in US swing states. Then came Twitter which admitted to having been used by Russia to do likewise; and finally Google executives are now conceding that Russia purchased election ads, as well.
After all three social websites’ giants have volunteered information as to how Russia placed ads with their companies, I’m wondering if the republican President Donald Trump is still continuing to deny Russia’s intent to mess with the 2016 US election process.
Here is the rest of the story...
On October 9, 2017, Daisuke Wakabayashi of the New York Times penned the following report, “Google Finds Accounts Connected to Russia Bought Election Ads.”
“Google has found evidence that Russian agents bought ads on its wide-ranging networks in an effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign.”
“The findings from an internal inquiry draw Google further into the growing investigation of how social networks and technology services were manipulated by the Russian government to spread misinformation and sow division during the 2016 election.”
“Using accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government, the agents purchased $4,700 worth of search ads and more traditional display ads, according to a person familiar with the company’s ongoing inquiry who was not allowed to speak about it publicly. Google found the accounts through its own research and information provided by other technology companies.”
“Google found a separate $53,000 worth of ads with political material that were purchased from Russian internet addresses, building addresses or with Russian currency. It is not clear whether any of those were connected to the Russian government, and they may have been legitimately purchased by Russian citizens, the person said.”
“The messages of those ads spanned the political spectrum. One account spent $7,000 on ads to promote a documentary called “You’ve Been Trumped,” a film about Donald J. Trump’s efforts to build a golf course in Scotland along an environmentally sensitive coastline.
“Google has been called to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Nov. 1. But it has so far escaped the intense scrutiny confronting Facebook after the social network admitted that it discovered 470 profiles and pages to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin.”
“The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, said it should not be surprising that Russians were using Google as well as Facebook and Twitter. The only thing that is surprising, he said, is that it took so long for Google to find the activity.”
“It will take more time and length and breadth to know what Russia did on social media,” Mr. Schiff said. “But the themes are consistent across platforms: the desire to help Donald Trump, to hurt Hillary Clinton and the desire to set Americans against each other.”
“Facebook has said the Russian company had placed 3,000 ads on its network at a cost of about $100,000. Last month, Twitter said it had found about 200 accounts that appeared to be linked to a Russian campaign to influence the election.”
“But Google’s investigation hasn’t found the same type of targeted advertising that Russian agents conducted on Facebook. The social network allows advertisers to target its audience with more specificity than Google, including users with a wide range of political leanings.”
“The 2016 presidential election marked the first time that Google allowed targeting by political leanings and it allowed two categories — left-leaning and right-leaning.”
“However, Google has not found any evidence that the ads from the accounts suspected of having ties to the Russian government used these political categories or geographic parameters to target specific groups, the person familiar with the company’s investigation said. The ads were much more broad, aimed at English-language queries or any users in the United States, for example.”
“A Google spokeswoman, Andrea Faville, said the company had a policy that limits political ad targeting and prohibits targeting based on race and religion.”
“We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries,” Ms. Faville said.”
“On Facebook, fake Russia-linked accounts — in which fictional people posed as American activists — promoted inflammatory messages on divisive issues. Those accounts bought advertising to promote those messages and reach a bigger audience within the Facebook universe, while promoting the incendiary posts to different locations or people with established political leanings for maximum impact.”
“While the Russian-linked accounts did not target ads based on political affiliation, it raises the question of why Google allowed such targeting for the 2016 election when it hadn’t done so in the past. The only location where Google allows ad targeting by political affiliation is the United States.”
“Google is working with Jigsaw, a think tank owned by its parent company, Alphabet. Jigsaw has been doing research for 18 months on fake news and misinformation campaigns and it is using some of those findings in the investigation into Russian election meddling, the person said. It is also working with other technology companies like Facebook and Twitter, in addition to independent researchers and law enforcement.”