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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

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.

Judge temporarily blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide.

Why it matters: It's the latest setback in the Biden administration's rollout of COVID-19 vaccine requirements. Federal judges in two states temporarily barred the administration from enforcing mandates for millions of workers last week.

Biden threatens Putin

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a video call that lasted for just over two hours on Tuesday, President Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. will impose unprecedented sanctions and provide additional weaponry to the Ukrainians, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Why it matters: Russia's military activity on the border with Ukraine has triggered alarms from the U.S. and its European allies of a potential large-scale Russian invasion in early 2022. Sullivan said Biden made clear to Putin that, "things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now."