‘Tip of the iceberg’? Google uncovers Russian disinformation campaign


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 U.S. presidential election, a person briefed on the company’s probe told Reuters on Monday:

The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook Inc (FB.O), but may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, according to the source, who was not authorized to discuss details of Google’s confidential investigation. The revelation is likely to fuel further scrutiny of the role that Silicon Valley technology giants may have unwittingly played during last year’s election.

In a statement, Google said it has a “set of strict ads policies including limits on political ad targeting and prohibitions on 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,” the statement continued.

“What we’ve seen so far is the tip of the iceberg,” tweeted analyst Anne Applebaum, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy (one of the groups Russian internet censors are blocking as ‘undesirables’).

Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday, The Washington Post adds:

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories. …..

The report by Oxford’s Project on Computational Propaganda, which has been studying ways that fake news and propaganda reached Americans during the 2016 election and its aftermath, is the first in which the group sought to explore the spread of disinformation on both Twitter and Facebook, and also how links are shared back and forth across these platforms.

The main threats to British national security are the jihadi terrorism of Islamic State and the hybrid warfare being waged against all western democracies by Vladimir Putin, analyst Paul Mason contends.

Propaganda, disinformation, misinformation: The words we choose to describe media manipulation can lead to assumptions about how information spreads, who spreads it, and who receives it. These assumptions can shape what kinds of interventions or solutions seem desirable, appropriate, or even possible, according to the Lexicon of Lies, accompanied by Teaching Resources from Data & Society’s Caroline Jack and Monica Bulger.

The inner workings of influence operations are outlined by the Alliance for Securing Democracy:

Michael Carpenter argues that “Russia’s goals are not hard to discern: undermining democratic institutions, weakening the cohesion of NATO and the EU, and delegitimizing the international order’s norms of transparency, accountability, and rule of law.” How does Russia do this? According to Laura Rosenberger, “global powers use instantaneous media networks and a mix of overt and covert programming…” Russia finds issues that are socially divisive and invests in creating online groups and personas that promote these themes via social media. In the Berlin Policy Journal, Sophie Eisentraut and Etienne Soula argue that during last month’s German federal elections “in both Germany and the U.S., Moscow amplifies right-wing content in an attempt to exacerbate pre-existing socio-political divisions.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email