Google and Facebook Ads: Are They Trustworthy?

Vikram Nithyanandam, World Editor

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On October 9th, 2017, it was admitted by Google that Russian agents made several accounts and bought tens of thousands of dollars worth in advertisements, with the intention of spreading misinformation and lies to create political and social tensions between the American people during our 2016 presidential election. Before that, on September 6th, Facebook found over $100,000 worth of Russian-bought ads doing the exact same things. Later, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, turned over information related to over 3,000 politically themed, Russian-bought ads to Congress for examination. Currently, Google is investigating their ads to root out all the ads made by Russians during the elections. The accounts made were innocent, pretending to be American, and are now all believed to be part of a disinformation campaign led by Russian government. Then, Facebook apologized recently through their top official. “We know we have a responsibility to prevent everything we can from this happening on our platforms…we told Congress and the Intelligence committees that when they are ready to release the ads, we are ready to help them,” said COO Sheryl Sandberg. Twitter is also beginning to get involved in this as they shut down 201 accounts on their site which had similar ties to current topic. While Twitter hasn’t revealed much, representatives from Twitter and Facebook are planning to testify before Congressional investigators on November 1st. Google hasn’t revealed whether they will testify or not yet.

 

This is some extremely shocking news. As we know from 2016, Russia influenced our election with many methods, and the biggest one being that they hacked our election results which allowed Donald Trump to win. But now we see that it is possible for something as important as our presidential election be swayed by something as simple as fake online advertisements from foreign countries. Now, how do Dublin High students feel about how easily advertisements can affect our politics?

 

Junior Sumedh Vaidhyanathan commented that, “We already know that that the Russians hacked our election, but the way they’ve done it using advertisements is surprising, but allows us to increase awareness about not trusting ads all the time without knowing the facts.”

Junior William Louis wasn’t too surprised, stating that, “Honestly, countries tend to interfere in other countries’ political affairs, and since we have a lot of history with Russia, it’s expected for them to oppose us.”

 

An anonymous senior said that, “Well, I never see ads anymore because I use Adblock to make sure I don’t install viruses on accident by clicking on ads.”

 

However, not everyone employs Adblock in America. The fake advertisements made by Russia is one of the many methods they used to tamper with our election. Obviously, Americans may make ads supporting one political party or the other, but a foreign country doing that on Facebook or Google are actually not performing anything illegal in any way. The political ads run online do not break any agreements or laws that have been made in the US against other countries. However, even though foreign political ads are legal, it still rankles the American government that this was done by Russia in the first place, especially since Donald Trump allegedly has no dislike towards Vladimir Putin.

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