Google Says Russian Operatives Made 1,100 YouTube Videos During Campaign

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A Google executive told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that the company had discovered two Russian-operated ad accounts that spent $4,700, and also had found 1,100 YouTube videos it suspects were part of Russia’s disinformation campaign.

On YouTube, we found 18 channels with approximately 1,100 videos that were uploaded by individuals who we suspect are associated with this effort, and that contained political content,” Richard Salgado, himself a former Department of Justice official, told the committee.

These videos mostly had low view counts, just 3 percent of them had more than 5,000 views. And constituted only around 43 hours of YouTube content,” he continued. “While this is relatively small, people watch over 1 billion hours of YouTube content a day, 400 hours of content are uploaded every minute, we understand that any misuse of our platforms for this purpose can be very serious.” 

Salgado observed that while YouTube doesn’t offer geotargeting, links to the suspected Russian videos were often posted to platforms that did. He also obliquely referred to “safeguards we had in place in advance of the election” that limited Google’s exposure to the Russian campaign. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Thielman is an investigative reporter for Talking Points Memo based in Manhattan. He has worked as a reporter and critic for the Guardian, Variety, Adweek and Newsday, where he covered stories from the hacking attacks on US and international targets by Russian GRU and FSB security services to the struggle to bring broadband internet to the Navajo nation. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son and too many comic books.
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