New revelations are coming to light in relation to the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 using through social media. Image: TheUSBPort

Ahead of the hearing scheduled for Wednesday, November 1, with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, several media outlets have obtained testimonies by Facebook and Twitter revealing the depth of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Google disclosed its own findings on Monday.

Preliminary reports say that the number of accounts on Facebook and Twitter was way higher than previously reported, as were the number of messages and the potential audience they could have reached over a period of two years. On the other hand, YouTube use was regarded as “limited activity” by Google.

The findings come at a time when Facebook is in trouble over reportedly serving ads to users after eavesdropping without their permission at all times, and Twitter announcing new transparency policies coming to its ad platform. Google’s continuing efforts to police the internet have received no updates in recent times.

IRA used Twitter and Facebook more than we thought

The Internet Research Agency, also known as the IRA, is a Russian troll farm dedicated to creating content for the Kremlin and managing online operations that satisfy their interests. Both Twitter and Facebook claimed to have tracked the suspicious accounts linked to the election interference back to this group.

On Facebook alone, the operatives made more than 80,000 posts between 2015 and this year, initially reaching some 29 million people. After interactions on the platform, the pieces of content could have reached an audience of roughly 126 million users.

Moreover, Twitter will disclose before Congress and the Senate that Russian agents generated 1.4 million tweets during the campaign from nearly 37,000 accounts on the platform. Only 2,752 have been directly linked. In total, the messages received roughly 288 million impressions from likes, favorites, retweets, and more.

Russian content on YouTube was contained in comparison

The numbers look quite different from what initial investigations had concluded on both of these sites. Twitter had found only 200 accounts at first, and Facebook found an additional 170 accounts on Instagram that had posted 120,000 pieces to the photo-sharing site.

Google, on the other hand, had yet to come forward in regards to the impact on their platform. YouTube was of special interest to the Committees, and the tech giant was able to detect only 18 channels involved with the Kremlin that collectively uploaded some 1,108 videos.

In total, they were viewed more than 309,000 during the period established for the investigation, and only 3% of those videos averaged more than 3,000 views. The IRA was also found to have spent almost $5,000 on diverse ads running across the internet using Google’s advertisement tools.

Source: The New York Times