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Google Uncovers Russia-Bought Ads On YouTube, Gmail and Other Platforms (reuters.com) 345

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: 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, 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. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow's goal was to help elect Donald Trump. Google has uncovered less than $100,000 in ad spending potentially linked to Russian actors, the source said.

Google Uncovers Russia-Bought Ads On YouTube, Gmail and Other Platforms

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  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Monday October 09, 2017 @05:31PM (#55338835)

    Adblockers have to become mandatory, let's say 4 years before each election.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2017 @06:05PM (#55339133)

      For something like a year now we've heard nothing but accusations of "Russians! Russians! Russians! Russians! Russians!" spewed again and again by left wing politicians and the media, Slashdot included.

      Shit, it's like there's a Slashdot submission on the front page about this alleged matter every other day, it seems!

      Yet despite so many left wing politicians and media talking heads putting so much time and effort into crafting this "Russia" narrative, we haven't seen any significant evidence of any sort presented to back up the claims.

      Just look at what we have here:

      Google has uncovered less than $100,000 in ad spending potentially linked to Russian actors, the source said.

      Notice that it contains the word "potentially", and the very vague term "Russian actors". There's not even any certainty here, apparently! And the amount of money involved is absolutely trivial when it comes to online marketing.

      If something actually happened, and so many left wing politicians and media personnel are so sure of it, then why the hell can't they present some compelling evidence?! They've had a year to produce something, yet they haven't been able to. All we get is really half-assed and very uncertain "evidence" like in this case.

      I think we're well beyond a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" situation at this point. This, of course, is dangerous, because it has now trained most Americans to not trust such claims in the future.

      If Slashdot has any integrity, I think the editors here should stop wasting our time with these nonsensical submissions unless some substantial and conclusive evidence is presented.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's been Boy who Cried Wolf for almost a year now, multiple times daily. Enough that when Trump does something news worthy, it's gets ignored and/or buried.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          The boy cried wolf because there was an actual wolf, and you idiots put him in charge of the pasture.
        • Trump is newsworthy every day, and not in the way that you think he is.

        • Lie
          Manafort
          Flynn (agent of foreign power, unreported)
          What we have is massive evidence of a systematic coordinated effort to undermine truth in favor of TRump, by a foreign power
          See "Donations in kind"
          • by Reverend Green ( 4973045 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @01:14AM (#55341139)

            Flynn was attempting to reform the Intelligence Community, to bring it back in line with the law and with open American values. Thus he was smeared and had his good name dragged through the mud.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Jerry ( 6400 )

            Nice bullet points from "Media Matters", started by David Brock, who is funded by George Soros.

            • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

              It's like you guys think all you have to say is "George Soros", and you've made your argument.

              There's a little of that on the left with the Koch Brothers - but at least there's documentation of what the Koch's do politically with their money and what they want to get out of it in return. And of course, there are many more where the Koch's come from. The Mercers are funding a nice little disinformation machine on their own.

              So what exactly is it that Soros does - and wants in return for his cash - that's so

      • by nobuddy ( 952985 )

        The investigation is ongoing. We won't see results till it is done and charges are filed. That is how real investigations work. Watergate took 2 years from special council selection (saturday night slaughter) to charges filed and resign.

        be patient. The media talks about what Meuller releases when he releases it. And he is a shrewd one- anything released or leaked is done to scare someone in to making a deal for immunity or a lighter charge by showing them what they have on them.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          The whole premise is bullshit. This is an investigation in click bait, which I but have pretty successfully adapted to ignoring (I still hate it and would love to be able to block those shit content creators but the POS at alphabet wont allow individual user control of the content that is shoved in their face), claiming that the click bait is the work of the Russia government. The worst of the click bait comes from the US and Eastern Europe and Russia ain't that good at it, personally I think the Ukraine an

      • A final farewell (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @04:34AM (#55341523)

        I can't be bothered to answer this nonsense, to be honest. I was originally attracted to slashdot because it was about technology, and you would often come across comments from people with real insight into things, but it has gone downhill - and now it is dominated by people, who prefer to deny simple, observable facts, and who display a strange sort of impenetrable stupidity, assigning perversely twisted meanings to words - like in this comment, where "leftist" apparently means "doesn't agree with me", or perhaps even just "bad". Who knows? Who cares?

        One can only waste so much time - I don't mind losing arguments or being proven wrong, but I do mind wasting my time on blind, wilful stupidity. So, I will now log off, delete the bookmark that points to slashdot and move on. I leave without anger or bitterness - so why the parting shot? Well, I know there are some that will agree with me, and who knows - maybe this can be a small nudge in the right direction, and though it is very unlikely, perhaps it can eventually be part of something that will lead to a change I won't know, but others may benefit. That's it - bye now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          The name for this kind of thing is "populism". Everyone who disagrees with you is part of some group, "leftists" in this case, and of course those groups are all awful so you should instantly dismiss what they are saying and assume they are trying to destroy your way of life.

          The impenetrable stupidity part is designed to give Reddit conspiracy theories an air of respectability that they don't deserve. Talking seriously about them as if they were credible helps others with their confirmation bias and mental

      • There was a metric shitton of evidence. You must have been living on the moon if you haven't seen any.
      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        For something like a year now we've heard nothing but accusations of "Russians! Russians! Russians! Russians! Russians!" spewed again and again by left wing politicians and the media, Slashdot included.

        Well, you are not wrong, but remember that the right wing politicians and media did the same.
        So perhaps they are BOTH right. Perhaps the Russians try to divide the people in the US. And as far as I can see, they are winning. Why? Because you think that this is about left vs right.

      • by Jerry ( 6400 )

        Who knew?
        According to this "news" it took only $100K to destroy Hillary's hope of becoming president. Google poured millions into Hillary's campaign fund but the "Russians" snookered them with a paultry 100G's.

        So, according to the Google, Twitter and Facebook it wasn't Hillary's "pay to play" Foundation donations giving access to the US State Department, it wasn't her erasure of 33,000 emails AFTER she received a Congressional subpena to produce them, and it wasn't that she ran the State Dept on her privat

      • Did you really type that all out? It's easier to just stick your fingers in your ears and say "La la laa I can't hear you!" every time there is an update on this. There will be plenty more to come, we don't let foreign attacks on our democracy go uninvestigated. (Domestic attacks, sometimes we let go)
    • I was about to say, if you were motivated to vote for a president by a YouTube/Google/Facebook advertisement in 2017, you're either an idiot or ignorant of Firefox+Adblock or uGet. But when it comes to computers, I've learned that most people are both.
      • The aim is usually to motivate you not to vote for a President. That's why both sides throw as much mud as possible at each other. It's more effective - and easier - to suppress turnout of your opponent's voters than it is to put forward an inspiring agenda.

        • Usually. What happened here is that the Republican candidate returned to the old tricks of race baiting (among others) that had been off-limits for a few decades. The turnout in general is so low that the gambit was to increase turnout among the white nationalists and anarcho-capitalist types... Even by a small amount, the overall turnout is so low that a relatively small group of extremists was able to swing the electoral college, despite more citizens actually pulling the lever for someone else. You can s
  • American companies will gladly take your money to influence an election.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jzanu ( 668651 )
      That is generally called corruption, but betrayal of the founding principles of your country for money is also called treason. The rule of law is a global indicator of civilization, which has been trashed by the US Trump administration, and particularly by Trump himself. He may not understand reality as it occurs every day though, which means he needs to go into a hospital for treatment rather than jail.
      • Do you know of any other elections that have 'been meddled with'?
        • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
          The United Russia youth wing's activity bankrolling pro-leave Brexiters, attempt to impugn Macron and support Le Penn in France, the sudden and timely take-over of Catalan province by the minority independence sect and its financial support. Financial support in politics means advertising of every type. Also the instability in Ukraine and Syria were created to secure Russian geopolitical objectives of a souther sea port and securing a buffer state against the EU/NATO influence. The second part isn't working
          • by Anonymous Coward

            BAD: Russia giving money to the pro-Brexit campaign
            GOOD: Obama personally flying to London and speaking against Brexit.

            Well at least you're not hypocritical or anything.

            Oh, and of course there's this. [williamblum.org]

      • betrayal of the founding principles of your country for money is also called treason.

        Not according to the US Constitution.

    • Re:In other words (Score:4, Informative)

      by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday October 09, 2017 @05:46PM (#55338985) Journal

      I bet the "tens of thousands" of dollars spent was really successful, considering that Clinton and surrogates spent 1.5 Billion influencing her electoral failures.

      But yeah, keep on blaming the Russians for her loss, because that totally happened!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by JackieBrown ( 987087 )

        Apparently the typical Hillary supporter is easily susceptible to Russian advertising since so many of them apparently abandoned her due to facebook and youtube ads.

      • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

        I bet the "tens of thousands" of dollars spent was really successful, considering that Clinton and surrogates spent 1.5 Billion influencing her electoral failures. But yeah, keep on blaming the Russians for her loss, because that totally happened!

        I think it's clear she lost because she wasn't as compelling a candidate as trump.

        But completely aside from the fact that the foreign ads had an insignificant effect -- don't you still think it's concerning? Sure lots of nations have interfered or influenced the elections in other nations. It's not nice to be on the receiving end. It's against the law in the US. And what if these are just small incursions to test the water in preparation for much larger influence campaigns in future? not necessarily even on

        • I think it's clear she lost because she wasn't as compelling a candidate as trump.

          Given that she won the popular vote, that isn't actually clear. But it's true that both candidates were (and remain) about as popular as dumpster fires.

      • Honestly I never liked or trusted Hillary. My political views are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. While not a fan of socialism I did like Bernie due to the fact he was honest about not accepting money. However that was the very reason the democrats DIDN'T like him. I'm enjoying a Trump presidency for the sheer entertainment value of it all.

      • I bet the "tens of thousands" of dollars spent was really successful, considering that Clinton and surrogates spent 1.5 Billion influencing her electoral failures.

        But yeah, keep on blaming the Russians for her loss, because that totally happened!

        This isn't about who won or lost, it's about another country interfering with our nation. The goal of Russia has been to destabilize other nations for their own gain. You are either being disingenuous or just ignorant if you refuse to or do not realize these were highly targeted advertisements.

        This is about information warfare.

  • Chump Change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 09, 2017 @05:36PM (#55338881)
    These people do realize that $10k to $100k, compared to the $1.2 billion spent on the election is chump change and couldn't have effected squat, right?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Lisandro ( 799651 )

      Well, evidence points to social media advertising being exceedingly effective this past election.

      • You are talking about how Obama used it for his election win correct? I remember everyone talking about how brilliant and masterful he was when he manipulated people through social media but now that people who may have supported Trump have used it, it's suddenly reprehensible.

      • Well, evidence points to social media advertising being exceedingly effective this past election.

        They were even more effective than you think. I read a few things about the facebook 'campaign' and a large fraction of the ads were published after the election, and some of the ads were showing puppies. That is some seriously advanced reshaping of US politics you have there. https://consortiumnews.com/201... [consortiumnews.com]

    • Did you miss that error, I think its called Trump Change because he believes being called a Chump is Fake News.
    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      These people do realize that $10k to $100k, compared to the $1.2 billion spent on the election is chump change and couldn't have effected squat, right?

      I think that's clear.

      But completely aside from the fact that this had an insignificant effect -- don't you still think it's concerning? Sure lots of nations have interfered or influenced the elections in other nations. It's not nice to be on the receiving end. It's against the law in the US. And what if these are just small incursions to test the water in preparation for much larger influence campaigns in future? not necessarily even ones targeted at elections?

      Sure, foreign powers already have considerable

      • don't you still think it's concerning?

        TBH, not really. Just like I didn't think it concerning to hear a Kaspersky Labs ad on NPR. Just as I don't think it concerning that google linked to conspiracy theories.

        Ads and conspiracy theories are just information, false or not, responsibility for acting on information is the individual. I, as a free individual, must decide for myself what is true. I also must allow others to do the same. This means that conspiracy theories will live for decades (Kennedy assassination) and some will be influenced by ad

    • These people do realize that $10k to $100k, compared to the $1.2 billion spent on the election is chump change...

      What makes you think that the forensic accounting is complete?

  • When it's true.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1. How many adds CNN/MSNBC/MSM/YOUTUBE/ETC buys that show up to Russian viewers.

    2. How many adds may have been bought by Russians that show up to Americans.

    Stop the Russian xenophobia.

    • I run noscript in concert with AdBlock Plus. I tried UBlock Origin for about a day (in advanced mode) and found that certain ads *STILL* got through. One was even a complete lock-up-your-browser-while-playing-an-audio-file-telling-you-that-your-browser's-security-is-at-risk ad. It also doesn't seem to reliably stop youtube ads.
      • Sorry to hear that. I recommend uMatrix in addition to what you're using now - since it provides granular control of images, js, iframes etc. based on domains.
  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Monday October 09, 2017 @05:55PM (#55339055) Homepage Journal

    The problem is lazy, disengaged, stupid voters who vote the way Facebook tells them to. Banning Russian ads (or corporate ads, or any other kind of political ads) won't change this.

    And the sore loser Democrats know this. They don't want to change how it all works. They just want to change who gets to manipulate the voter.

    • The problem is lazy, disengaged, stupid voters who vote the way Facebook tells them to. Banning Russian ads (or corporate ads, or any other kind of political ads) won't change this.

      No, the problem is that the current US voting system mathematically favors only having two candidates on the ballot. Another problem is that campaign financing gives a significant amount of influence to the rich on who will be the party candidate which allows them to only have representatives that favor their interests.

      And the sore loser Democrats know this. They don't want to change how it all works.

      Actually, neither side wants this to change because the current system gives them a stranglehold on power.

      They just want to change who gets to manipulate the voter.

      The Kremlin has an opposing interest, isn't this the lesser evil?

      If we want to actua

    • People don't vote "the way Facebook tells them to". Facebook posts normalize extreme views and make candidates like Trump seem like a plausible, even good idea. It's the power of peers and large numbers of others appearing to confirm your biases and fears.

      Check the recent Brietbart email leaks. They detail this strategy of normalization in detail. It's why the opposition tried to de-normalize Trump, and why they even now keep repeating "this is not normal".

  • Escapegoat? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Can someone explain to me why Russians buying advertising to influence the US election is wrong, but Americans buying advertising to influence, well, pretty much every election or political body in the world, is perfectly fine?

    What is this absurdity that it's only by Russia doing it that makes it wrong? What of the massive influence American/European NGO's have in politics? What about the giant Israeli lobby in the American political system that some would say has massively influenced American intervention

  • by TheOuterLinux ( 4778741 ) on Monday October 09, 2017 @06:07PM (#55339147)
    What has the world come to? Communists acting like capitalists...*faints*
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Russia has had a capitalist economic system since the dissolution of the USSR in Dec. 1991.

  • My initial reaction to this article is that the google's "confession" is highly suspect. I suspect Putin could have afforded a MUCH larger investment in what now looks like a decapitation strike against the US.

    Mostly I'm laughing at how slow I was to realize "Don't be evil" had become a joke. The current motto might be "All your attention are belong to us." However it all comes down to a religious issue:

    There is no gawd but profit, and the google is gawd's true prophet.

    Of course the joke is that ALL the gia

  • Anybody else notice the hordes of Russian shitposters on Youtube, posting the usual talking points (complete with foul language) to any video having anything to do with American politics?

  • It seems to me like the CIA has been influencing elections around the world for decades. What is with all the NIMBYism all of a sudden?

    And on a related subject, where is all the outrage about Palantir and Cambridge Analytica influencing elections via Social Media?

    And on another related subject, does anyone really believe that elections in America are anything more than reality TV-esque "news" programs designed to present the illusion of control to an electorate that is bought and paid for by corporations?

  • Quick everybody... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BeCre8iv ( 563502 )
    Fixate on ads at Google and Facebook. To distract the actual content on Wikileaks.

    Spoiler: It was a Dem staffer that sunk Clinton - and they had him shot.
  • Russians made my loaf of bread go stale! It was just fine when I left it sit out on the table last week - but now it's hard as a rock. I blame Russia! And Trump, I know Trump was working with the rooskies on this one. Bread is good therefore Trump hates bread!

  • by billakay ( 1607221 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @01:44AM (#55341213)
    Aside from the fact that the entire "Russia meddling" narrative is BS, they are using extremely poor definitions to make the claims. What what I've been able to tell, "Russian actors" refers to anyone browsing from a Russian IP address or anyone who has their language preferences set to Russian. A random people in Russia placing ads is worlds away from a coordinated effort by an intelligence agency or some other state actor. In addition, many of these "actors" may be US citizens. I myself am a natural born US citizen who currently lives in Russia and often browses with my language set to Russian.
  • People have been screaming about the reliability of voting machines and voter fraud for years, but they where dismissed as paranoid.
    Now, when it's in favor of their political interest, the establishment suddenly cares about the reliability of elections.

    They're talking about thousands of dollars in an election where Hillary spent more than a billion dollars, 550 million more than her opponent.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/poli... [bloomberg.com]
    Yet somehow a couple hundred thousand dollars from Russians flipped the electi
  • companies, technologies and countries do not have wits.

  • by e_pluribus_funk ( 648835 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @10:13AM (#55342697)
    That a $100,000 or $200,000 spending by Russia on limited ad buys on Facebook and Youtube somehow swayed people to vote against Hillary, who spent $1.2 billion on her campaign...(and lets ignore for a moment that the Facebook ads supported Hillary). I'm a bit...skeptical.

    How about, instead, the Democrats and the left face up to the fact that Hillary was an extremely unappealing and disengaged candidate who assumed her victory was a foregone conclusion and thus failed to campaign in rust belt states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2017 @01:17PM (#55343955) Homepage

    Okay, so tens of thousands of ads were bought thru Russia.

    $80,000 (tens of thousands) = 0.000016% of $5 billion

    = 0.00014149% $563,756,928 Hillary's direct funds

    = 0.00024% 333,127,164 Trump's direct funds

    If you think tens of thousands of dollars influenced the election in any decisive way, you're a moron. Second, these are merely adds purchased from Russian IP's. I would wager, that most of these were in fact purchases by American's who had donated their legal limits to campaigns, and went thru darknet options to buy them (routing thru Russia).

    The fact that the media is working so so so so so hard to convince American's that the election was lost/altered due to the Russia's would almost be comical, if the media wasn't trying to take it so seriously.

  • by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2017 @07:21AM (#55348435) Journal

    So, of $4.400,000,000 ad money the Ds & Rs spent on advertising, apparently Russians purchased a bit more than $100,000 on FB and a bit less than that on Google...let's just say ~$200k total. Or, .0454% of the advertising budget that the campaigns spent. Well, that certainly explains why HRC lost.

Yet magic and hierarchy arise from the same source, and this source has a null pointer.

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