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Microsoft looks at whether Russians bought USA ads on search engine

11 October, 2017, 03:59 | Author: Nadine Todd
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.   Drew Angerer  Getty Images

Google remains tight-lipped about the details of their initial findings, but has said they used data from Twitter (without Twitter's express consent) to investigate the ad buys. This suggests the Russian government either found a way around Google's systems, or that the rules were suspended for some reason.

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.

The role that Silicon Valley technology giants may have unwittingly played during last year's election is still being uncovered.

Microsoft Corp said on Monday it was looking into whether Russians bought US election ads on its Bing search engine or on other Microsoft-owned products and platforms, after rival Google said it had discovered such ads on its products.

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.

They focused on "divisive social and political messages", it said. Some of those networks are based in the U.S., the Washington Post reported, and can be highly lucrative. 'Destroy our democracy' Google, which runs the world's largest online advertising business, had largely evaded public or congressional scrutiny until now. 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. The two firms are now cooperating with Congressional investigators looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Facebook and Twitter are facing renewed calls from USA lawmakers to ensure ads on their respective platforms aren't used to spread hate.

Facebook has confirmed that around 5% of the adverts it has identified as having been bought by Russian Federation around the time of the United States presidential election also appeared on Instagram. "If Vladimir Putin is using Facebook or Google or Twitter to, in effect, destroy our democracy, the American people should know about it", Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal said on Monday.

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