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Google claims no instances of foreign interference campaigns targeting Australia

ZDNet

Representatives from Google have told an Australian Parliamentary committee looking into foreign interference that the country has not been the target of coordinated influence campaigns. "We've not seen the sort of foreign coordinated foreign influence campaigns targeted at Australia that we have with other jurisdictions, including the United States," Google director of law enforcement and information security Richard Salgado said. "Some of the disinformation campaigns that originate outside Australia, even if not targeting Australia, may affect Australia as collateral ... but not as a target of the campaign. "We have found no instances of foreign coordinated influence campaigns targeting Australia." While acknowledging campaigns that reach Australia do exist, he reiterated they have not specifically targeted Australia. "Some of these campaigns are broad enough that the disinformation could be, sort of, divisive in any jurisdiction in which it is consumed, even if it's not targeting that jurisdiction," Salgado told the Select Committee on Foreign Interference Through Social Media. "Google services, YouTube in particular, which is where we have seen most of these kinds of campaigns run, isn't really very well designed for the purpose of targeting groups to create the division that some of the other platforms have suffered, so it isn't actually all that surprising that we haven't seen this on our services." Appearing alongside Salgado on Friday was Google Australia and New Zealand director of government affairs and public policy Lucinda Longcroft, who told the committee her organisation has been in close contact with the Australian government as it looks to prevent disinformation from emerging leading up the next federal election. Additionally, the pair said that Google undertakes a "constant tuning" of the artificial intelligence and machine learning tech used. It said it also constantly adjusts policies and strategies to avoid moments of surprise, where Google could find itself unable to handle a shift in attacker strategy or shift in volume of attack. Appearing earlier in the week before the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Google VP of product membership and partnerships Diana Layfield said her company does not monetise data from Google Pay in Australia. "I suppose you could argue that there are non-transaction data aspects -- so people's personal profile information," she added. "If you sign up for an app, you have to have a Google account.