Russia Downplays Latest Signs of Online Meddling in U.S. Election

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Government officials and state-run media highlight Google's comment that Russia engaged in "limited" misuse of the company's services.

State-run Russian media outlets and officials have downplayed the latest revelations by Facebook and Twitter about activities during last year's U.S. presidential campaign, highlighting that Google has spoken about "limited" misuse of its services by Russia-related groups.

"[Google] revealed that just two accounts placed several ads, paying less than $5,000 for that," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by state-run news agency RIA Novosti. "That's a huge amount for a U.S. presidential campaign," he added sarcastically.

Lavrov also repeated Russia's long-standing denial of any meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. "Neither [Kremlin-funded television network] RT, nor any other Russian agency misused Google, including YouTube, during last year's presidential election in the U.S.," he said.

RT declined to comment on the statements from the U.S. tech giants since they did not specifically mention the network. However, RT ran a story on its website under the headline, "No evidence of RT manipulating YouTube during US election – Google." In the story, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan commented on Google's statements, using a Latin phrase that is translated into English as "what was to be shown."

RT has maintained that accusations of the network spreading propaganda messages in the U.S. are part of a "witch hunt." Last week, Twitter banned ads from RT and associated news agency Sputnik, leading to severe criticism in Russia.

On Tuesday, the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russian parliament, said that it is considering introducing restrictions on placing Twitter ads by Russian companies in response to Twitter's move.

Meanwhile, state-run Russian media have mostly ignored Facebook's revelations that the Internet Research Agency, a group known for promoting pro-Moscow messages, posted more than 80,000 times on the social network during the U.S. election campaign, potentially reaching 126 million users.