Google has detailed how Russia tried to use its platforms to influence US politics

Sundar pichai google ceoJustin Sullivan/Getty ImagesGoogle CEO Sundar Pichai.
  • Google says it has found more than 1,000 videos from Russian-linked accounts that attempted to influence US politics.
  • The disclosures come as Google, Facebook, and Twitter prepare to testify to Congress about Russian meddling in the US presidential election.
  • Facebook now says a staggering 126 million Americans likely saw Russia-linked posts.

Google has shared information on how Russia-linked accounts attempted to use its platforms to influence American politics, as it prepares to testify to Congress this week on Russian misinformation campaigns.

More than 1,000 videos linked to state-sponsored actors were identified, with more than 300,000 cumulative views in the US between June 2015 and November 2016 — the US presidential election period.

These came from 18 different channels, which have since been suspended.

Google also found that two accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed online propaganda agency, spent $US4,700 (£3,556) on adverts on its platforms during the election cycle. These weren’t targeted by location or political preferences, the company said on Monday.

Google’s disclosures come alongside similar reports from Facebook and Twitter, which for the first time give us an idea of the true scale of Russian propaganda attempts during the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook now says that a staggering 126 million Americans likely saw Russian posts that attempted to influence American politics during the election. Russian operatives made 80,000 posts over two years, the social network said, mostly on divisive issues like race relations.

Twitter, meanwhile, says that 30,000 accounts sent 1.4 million tweets during the last three months of the election, which got 288 million impressions.

In a blog post announcing its findings, Google’s SVP and general counsel Kent Walker and director of law enforcement and information security Richard Salgado wrote: “While we have found only limited activity on our services, we will continue to work to prevent all of it, because there is no amount of interference that is acceptable.”

He added: “Our work doesn’t stop here, and we’ll continue to investigate as new information comes to light. Improving transparency is a good start, but we must also address new and evolving threat vectors for misinformation and attacks on future elections. We will continue to do our best to help people find valuable and useful information, an essential foundation for an informed citizenry and a robust democratic process.”

It’s also worth noting that the YouTube figures do not include RT, a Russian state-sponsored news and propaganda outlet, which Google says does not violate its policies. Its videos have cumulatively received more than 2 billion views on YouTube.

And there’s one Google platform that was basically free of Russian meddling: Google Plus. The social network once intended to be a rival to Facebook is basically dead, and Russian operatives just didn’t bother with it. “We found no political posts in English from state-linked actors on Google+ (there were some posts in Russian and a very small number of non-political posts),” Google wrote.

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