It’s been a banner month for Google, Facebook, and Twitter, who have all recently admitted Russian government affiliates purchased ads on their platforms in an effort to influence the 2016 election. Now, Microsoft — perhaps feeling left out — says it too is looking into whether any similar misbehavior happened on its own search engine, Bing.
“Microsoft said they take reports of misuse of their platform seriously. They’re investigating and say that if inappropriate activity is found, they’ll take steps to minimize such misuse in the future,” a representative for the company said.
While Bing is technically the second-biggest search engine in the world by market share, according to analytics service NetMarketShare, Russian agents could be forgiven for overlooking it. Bing trails Google significantly, accounting for just 7.7 percent of the search market, versus Google’s 78.8 percent.
Other, smaller internet ad networks — including Reddit, Craigslist, and the Verizon-owned Oath, which operates Yahoo and AOL — did not respond to questions from VICE News about whether they were pursuing similar investigations.
So far, Google has identified “thousands” of dollars worth of Google search and YouTube ads purchased by Russian groups, according to a Washington Post report on Monday. In Facebook’s case, the Russians spent about $100,000 on 3,000 ads that were ultimately viewed by an estimated 10 million users. The purpose of the ads was reportedly to raise tensions during the 2016 election with content about divisive social issues, like the Black Lives Matter movement, immigration, and LGBT rights.
Lawmakers in Washington are apoplectic that no one monitored these ad purchases, and Democratic senators are currently preparing legislation in response. And tech companies will likely defend the matter in person soon: Google, Facebook, and Twitter have been invited to publicly testify before Congress on November 1.
Microsoft, which has not said so far whether it has found any evidence of Russian government activity on Bing, was not included on the list.