YouTube got roasted by US senators for being the 'vehicle of choice' for Russian state-sponsored propaganda

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures at the fort of Bregancon in Bormes-les-Mimosas, southern France, Monday Aug. 19, 2019. French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin are meeting to discuss the world's major crises, including Ukraine, Iran and Syria, and try to improve Moscow's relations with the European Union. (Gerard Julien, Pool via AP)

  • The US Senate Intelligence Committee published a report
    on Russian election interference on Tuesday.
  • The report accused Google’s YouTube of being the
    “propaganda vehicle of choice” for RT, Russia’s state-sponsored
    news organisation.
  • But lawmakers also wrote that YouTube was less popular
    than Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter as the platform of choice for
    large-scale Russian propaganda operations.
  • Visit
    Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A panel of US lawmakers published a report on Tuesday accusing
YouTube of being the “propaganda vehicle of choice” for Russian
state-sponsored propaganda outfit RT.

report by the Senate Intelligence Committee
focused on internet
misinformation campaigns waged by the Internet Research Agency
(IRA), a notorious Russian troll operation that functioned mainly
under the guise of fake accounts.

In good news for Google, the report mostly says that Facebook,
Instagram, and Twitter were the platforms of choice for IRA.

“There is little evidence that the IRA’s operational efforts
were as reliant on Google’s products as they were on Facebook,
Instagram, or Twitter to execute the most outwardly visible aspects
of their information warfare campaign,” the report says.

But, it continues, although Google products aren’t as widely
used, its hands aren’t clean.

Read more:
Trump told 2 top Russian officials in 2017 that he wasn’t bothered
about Russia’s election meddling

Of the Google products used YouTube was the most popular, and
the vast majority of IRA videos were targeted at black Americans by
addressing “racial issues” such as police brutality. However,
senators took aim at YouTube for facilitating a much less
surreptitious form of Russian propaganda.

“YouTube continues to be the propaganda vehicle of choice for
Russia’s state-sponsored news organization, RT (formerly Russia
Today). As of February 2019, RT had nearly 3.3 million global
subscribers on its YouTube channel,” the report says.

At time of writing, RT’s YouTube channel has over 3.7 million

The report also accused Google’s search engine of elevating
disinformation and extremist content, and gave an example. “Days
after the 2016 presidential election, a falsified media account of
President-elect Donald Trump having won the popular vote briefly
ranked higher than stories that accurately reflected the US popular
vote result,” the report says.

Trump’s rival in 2016, Hillary Clinton, in fact
won the popular vote

Thus far Google has managed to escape largely unscathed by
questions of Russian state interference, which have centered more
on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter where Russian
trolls can create millions of fake accounts. In November 2017
Google’s then-general counsel Kent Walker told senators, “Google’s
products didn’t lend themselves to the kind of micro-targeting or
viral dissemination that these actors seemed to prefer.”

And last December
, Google CEO Sundar Pichai acknowledged the
state-sponsored bot networks could manipulate YouTube by downvoting
videos or flooding them with negative comments. Pichai said Google
had sophisticated tools to detect this kind of activity.

The report asked President Trump to
condemn foreign interference in American elections
, and comes
just days after Trump called on Ukraine and China to investigate
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“We’ve invested significantly to detect phishing and hacking
attempts, identify foreign interference, and protect campaigns from
digital attacks. We’ll continue this work and will keep sharing
information with law enforcement and industry,” a YouTube
spokeswoman told Business Insider.

SEE ALSO: Russian
trolls tried to stoke racial divisions with the NFL kneeling debate
and Colin Kaepernick well after 2016, Senate report

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YouTube got roasted by US senators for being the 'vehicle of choice' for Russian state-sponsored propaganda