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Facebook has shared some details about the Russian-operated profiles it discovered on its platform with Google, as the search giant — with the rest of the tech industry — continues to probe the extent to which Kremlin-backed misinformation spread through their websites during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
It is unclear if Google has found any suspicious ads or other content after evaluating Facebook’s data, an exchange of intel confirmed to Recode today by three sources familiar with the matter. At the very least, Google’s investigation appears to be much broader in scope than a similar one by Twitter, which had drawn the ire of Congress for appearing to be incomplete.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment for this story, as did a Facebook rep.
For now, though, Google is slated to deliver a private briefing to U.S. lawmakers studying Russia’s political tactics in the coming weeks, additional sources told Recode. A date does not appear to have been set.
And the search-and-advertising giant has been asked to join Facebook and Twitter at two upcoming hearings in the House and Senate where the industry will face questions — out in the open — about its safeguards against Russian political interference in the future.
Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it found 470 Russia-driven accounts that had purchased 3,000 ads on its social network. Those ads, sources told Recode at the time, sought to stoke racial, religious and other social tensions in the United States, including around issues like Black Lives Matter and gun control.
Beyond publishing its findings, Facebook shared more granular details with its peers — standard practice for many tech giants, which generally band together to address online threats, such as hackers. With the aid of that information, Twitter discovered about 200 Kremlin-aligned accounts directly tied to some of the profiles Facebook previously identified. None of those suspicious Twitter accounts had purchased sponsored tweets, the company told lawmakers.
Twitter still drew sharp rebukes from Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of two panels investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. In a press conference, Warner charged that Twitter’s internal investigation was “frankly inadequate,” as it relied too heavily on the data supplied by Facebook. And Warner and his counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, both encouraged Twitter to dig deeper.
Google’s internal inquiry seems much broader than that, but nevertheless, the stakes are just as high. The company is the dominant search and advertising player in the United States. And a driver of Google’s expected $35 billion in ad revenue in 2017 is politics, as candidates, campaigns and causes increasingly take their messages online.
Otherwise, Google has not commented publicly on any activity it might have discovered on its platforms, nor has it announced any changes to its ad practices.