A logo sits on the entrance of the Google Inc.’s Kings Cross office in London, U.K.(Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Researchers Call Out Google for Limiting Data in Russia Report

(Bloomberg) -- A report commissioned by the U.S. Senate to help explain how Russian agents use social networks to meddle in U.S. elections said researchers’ work was hampered by stingy data sharing by Alphabet Inc.

The report detailed how Russia’s plot to divide Americans and aid Donald Trump in the 2016 election was larger and more sophisticated than previously thought. If tech companies were more open, the study could have produced additional findings, the authors wrote.

“Google’s data contribution was by far the most limited in context and least comprehensive of the three,” they said, referring to Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc.

Google sometimes gave information in PDFs, which made it hard for researchers to analyze the data with computer programs. The company’s disclosures also included images of spreadsheets, showing that the data did exist in machine-readable format and could have been shared that way, the researchers wrote. They reference their frustration with Google multiple times in the 47-page report.

Google’s official mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment, while referring to previous company blogs about efforts to stop misinformation on its services.

In the two years since journalists, researchers and intelligence experts exposed how Russian agents used social media to influence the U.S. election, the brunt of criticism has fallen on Facebook and Twitter. But in recent months, Google has become a bigger target, especially after its Dragonfly project to launch a censored search engine in China was revealed.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.