Search anything related to Facebook and Russia on Google, and the top result will be an ad from the social network.
Facebook seems to have taken out search ads on Google targeted at those terms in an bid to shape the narrative around the ongoing controversy over its platform’s role in Russian political subversion campaigns.
“We take trust seriously,” the headline text of the ads reads, followed by the sub-head: “We will work to help protect the integrity of elections on Facebook globally.”
The ads lead to a page in Facebook’s Help Center with a numbered breakdown of the ways the company claims to be combatting nefarious advertising and participating in the congressional investigation into Russia’s effort to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The social network has been under intense scrutiny since it revealed last month that Russia-linked actors bought more than $100,000 worth of Facebook ads designed to inflame political rifts around hot-button topics like race and immigration.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who initially said the idea that the platform influenced the election was “crazy,” has since apologized for failing to police such clear political exploitation. But he’s also suggested that he’s not entirely happy with the way the story is being covered in the press.
“Trump says Facebook is against him. Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like,” Zuckerberg wrote in one post. “The facts suggest the greatest role Facebook played in the 2016 election was different from what most are saying.”
Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos more explicitly criticized the media’s characterization of the Russian ads story in a tweetstorm this weekend.
“I am seeing a ton of coverage of our recent issues driven by stereotypes of our employees and attacks against fantasy, strawman tech [companies],” Stamos tweeted.
Perhaps the Google ads are one of Facebook’s ways of hitting back at what it clearly regards as unfair coverage. The social network is notorious for its meticulous and aggressive public relations operation.
In any case, Facebook clearly appreciates the power of targeted advertising to sway public opinion around news stories.