SAN FRANCISCO — When lawmakers asked YouTube, a unit of Google, to provide information about Russian manipulation efforts, it did not disclose how many people watched the videos on its site that were created by Russian trolls.
Facebook did not release the comments that its users made when they viewed Russian-generated content. And Twitter gave only scattered details about the Russian-controlled accounts that spread propaganda there.
The tech companies’ foot-dragging was described in a pair of reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee published on Monday, in what were the most detailed accounts to date about how Russian agents have wielded social media against Americans in recent years.
In the reports, Google, Twitter and Facebook (which also owns Instagram) were described by researchers as having “evaded” and “misrepresented” themselves and the extent of Russian activity on their sites. The companies were also criticized for not turning over complete sets of data about Russian manipulation to the Senate.
The data they did provide “lacked core components that would have provided a fuller and more actionable picture,” said one of the reports, which was written by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company, along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research. The report added: “Regrettably, it appears that the platforms may have misrepresented or evaded in some of their statements to Congress.”
The studies renewed questions about whether social media companies have withheld data on Russian activity and how willing they really are to address the issue. After facing scrutiny over the past two years