Researchers' faked divisive "Russian" ads escape Google action
In 2018, a group of researchers from the Campaign for Accountability posed as Russian trolls and were able to purchase divisive online ads and target them at Americans using Google's advertising platform. The researchers constructed fake profiles using the name and identifying details of the Internet Research Agency, a known Kremlin-linked troll farm; the ads appeared on the YouTube channels and websites belonging to CNN, CBS, Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast. The ads were approved in less than 48 hours, despite using language and images nearly identical to the Russian originals. Google never flagged the ads; CFA spent $35 on the test, which attracted more than 20,000 impressions and around 200 clickthroughs. Google said it was continuing to work on stopping abuse by foreign entities, but deplored CFA's "stunt", noting the campaign is partly backed by Oracle, one of its competitors.
Writer: Charlie Warzel