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Russians were gaming Google for Trump

by on10 October 2017

Not just Facebook

While it has been confirmed President Putin was splashing out cash on Facebook advertising to get Donald Trump elected in the US, it seems he was also spending a small fortune on Google too.

Google has discovered Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its YouTube, Gmail and Google Search products in an effort to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election.

The ads came through a different Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook and might be part of a wider Russian online disinformation effort.

Microsoft is also looking at whether Russians bought US election ads on its Bing search engine or other Microsoft-owned products and platforms and it might be Putin’s advertising campaign might be greater than many first thought.

The move is somewhat embarrassing for the Silicon Valley technology giants who generally opposed Trump but might have been key players in helping the Russians get him elected.

Google has uncovered $100,000 in ad spending potentially linked to Russian spooks, the source said. On the scale of things it is not that much but added to the Facebook, Twitter and possible Bing money and other advertising it is clear that Putin was rather keen on gaming the US election.

Twitter and Facebook recently detected and disclosed that suspected Russian operatives, working for a content farm known as the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia, used their platforms to purchase ads and post content that was politically divisive in a bid to influence Americans before and after the November 2016 presidential election.

The Internet Research Agency employ hundreds of “trolls” who post pro-Kremlin content, much of it fake or discredited, under the guise of phony social media accounts that posed as American or European residents, according to lawmakers and researchers.

“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,” a Google spokeswoman said yesterday.

There seem to have been other projects too. On Sunday, the Daily Beast news website reported that the Kremlin recruited at least two black video bloggers to post clips on YouTube during the campaign. They posed as Black Lives Matter sympathizers who were sharply critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Though the videos were only viewed hundreds of times, and would have been seen as a complete waste of money, they demonstrated for the first time that Russia allegedly deployed real people, not just fake online accounts or bots, to further spread propaganda.

A study published on Monday by researchers with the Oxford Internet Institute, which is affiliated with the British university, found that current U.S. 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.

Last modified on 10 October 2017
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