Jigsaw, the public service company owned by the parent company of Google, purchased a commercial social media trolling service to study its actions last year, Wired reports.

Why it matters: The campaign, which Jigsaw had conducted in Russia around the least consequential issue they could find, netted some interesting results. But it also raises a question of the ethics of purchasing such a campaign.

Details: The Jigsaw campaign centered on a decades-old Russian debate about whether Joseph Stalin was a hero or an embarrassment.

  • Jigsaw first set up a legitimate looking website called "Down With Stalin," then hired the firm SEOTweet to run a disinformation campaign to discredit the site.
  • SEOTweet offered to take down the site using fraudulent complaints for $500. Jigsaw chose a cheaper option, a 2-week disinformation campaign for $250.
  • The campaign resulted in 730 tweets from 25 different accounts, and 100 forum posts.
  • SEOTweet, "without any guidance from Jigsaw," appeared to assume the campaign was really about Russian politics. Many of the tweets took a pro-Putin stand.

The fallout: The campaign was deliberately small. But the optics of even a small campaign could have consequences, both in terms of U.S.-Russian relations and Russian national politics.

  • Ultimately, this was a U.S. firm interfering in Russia's affairs, something the U.S. claims to be against.

Meanwhile, Twitter released a summary of inauthentic account removals Thursday, including nearly 5,000 accounts from Iran, 4 from Russia and 33 from Venezuela. Perhaps most unexpected, Twitter downed 130 accounts from the Catalan independence movement in Spain.

Go deeper: Russian trolls shift tactics

Go deeper

23 million Americans face eviction

Natasha Blunt of New Orleans, who is at risk of eviction. Photo: Dorthy Ray/AP

The coronavirus pandemic threatens America with a new wave of homelessness due to a cratering economy, expiring unemployment stimulus payments and vanishing renter protections.

What they're saying: "I've never seen this many people poised to lose their housing in such a short period of time," said Bill Faith of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio to AP.

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 18,624,056 — Total deaths: 702,479 — Total recoveries — 11,181,518Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 4,802,275 — Total deaths: 157,551 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 58,239,438Map.
  3. 2020: Joe Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee for Democratic convention.
  4. Public health: Florida surpasses 500,000 confirmed casesFauci calls U.S. coronavirus testing delays "totally unacceptable"
  5. Business: America's next housing crisis.
  6. Education: Chicago Public Schools to begin school year fully remote.
Updated 2 hours ago - World

Beirut explosion: Death toll rises to 135, officials under house arrest

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from Tuesday's explosion in Beirut, Lebanon has now surpassed 130, including at least one U.S. citizen, amid a search for answers as to why a huge store of ammonium nitrate was left unsecured near the city's port for nearly seven years.

What we know: The government says around 5,000 people are injured. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said current indications are that the massive explosion was accidental, despite President Trump's puzzling claim on Tuesday evening that it appeared to be a bomb attack.