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Facebook, Google, Twitter face heat over influential Russian influence in 2016 US elections

Google says that it has found evidence that a Kremlin-linked group spent $4,700 on advertising as part of a misinformation campaign to influence American voters during the 2016 US election. The global search engine giant - in a blog post dated October 30, 2017 - says that it has found 1,108 English-language videos with 43?hours of content that may have influenced the outcome of the 2016 US election. The content, in all, piled up 309,000 views during the election cycle, it says, adding the numbers still translated into limited activity. But since no amount of interference/influence of such degree is acceptable, the company is working to prevent all of it, Google reiterates.

Google isn't the only one under the scanner for allegedly being influential in influencing the 2016 US election. Facebook and Twitter are also in line to disclose some numbers later on Tuesday. Both social media honchos are set to tell lawmakers in the US the exact number - or at least close to it, the Congress hopes - of posts/tweets part of an alleged Russian propaganda to boost Donald Trump's chances of winning the 2016 US presidential election. The fact that Trump actually won the election solely on the back of a misinformation campaign could mean an exaggeration for some but also goes on to add credence to arguments how social media may have an impact on decision making among general audience, or more precisely the people who vote in this case.

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The fact that Facebook and Twitter have - knowingly or unknowingly - shied away from revealing the exact numbers - that may be a deciding factor to tell which platform may have influenced the voters more -- till now is another cause of concern. Facebook, for instance, had previously reported that some 10?million users had seen ads bought by Russian-controlled accounts and pages during the US presidential election. Twitter, meanwhile, had reported 201 accounts linked to Russia. The numbers disclosed, it seems not, were only the tip of the iceberg.

Facebook now plans to tell lawmakers that 126 million of its users may have seen content part of the misinformation campaign to influence American voters. Twitter, meanwhile, is reportedly set to tell lawmakers that it has identified 2,752 accounts controlled by Russian operatives and over 36,000 bots that tweeted 1.4 million times during the US presidential election. All in collusion with Donald Trump, it is alleged, to help him beat Hillary Clinton in the race to the coveted title.

Clearly, the alleged Russian influence in the US elections seems far greater than originally thought or disclosed by Facebook and Twitter. Of the two, the role of Facebook needs a special and greater attention as the company has time and again denied being labeled as a media company with Mark Zuckerberg himself denying the consequences of fake news, only to come out and apologize later for his statements. Fake news propagated on social media could impact general consensus, after all, and Facebook maybe indirectly behaving as a media company.