Daily briefing: Google's Russian ads, Ikea and decade of charts – Financial Times

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Google is investigating suspicious advertising across YouTube, search and Gmail, as it tries to understand whether Russian actors used the company’s platform to try to influence the US presidential election. The tech giant has reportedly for the first time uncovered evidence that Kremlin-linked operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars across its many platforms in order to spread disinformation as it worked to help elect Donald Trump. The discovery is significant because Google has previously played down the problem of Russian meddling on its platform, and because the ads do not appear to be from the same Moscow-linked troll farm that bought ads on Facebook. Here’s a look at the havoc the Russian revelations are wreaking at Facebook.

The Alphabet-owned internet company’s investigation follows probes by Facebook and Twitter, both of which have discovered attempts by Russian groups to buy ads on political and social issues targeted at US audiences before and after the election last year. Congress has called all three companies to testify before investigators looking into Russian interference in last year’s election. (FT, WaPo)

In the news

Ikea turning to third-party ecommerce sites
Ikea is launching a test to sell its flat-pack furniture on big ecommerce websites in what the owner of its brand calls the biggest change in how it interacts with customers in its 74-year history. Torbjörn Lööf, chief executive of Inter Ikea, said the online push comes in response to a continued drop in traffic at the retailer’s out-of-town outlets, forcing it to turn to new types of stores, particularly in city centres, as well as new digital ideas. (FT)

White House as ‘adult day care centre’
Bob Corker, senior Republican senator and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, has likened the Trump White House to a “day care centre”, and warned that the president’s behaviour could lead the US into a third world war. In a remarkably candid interview, he charged that Donald Trump was treating his office like “a reality show” and said that nearly all of his Republican colleagues shared his concerns about Mr Trump’s volatility and fitness for office. Here’s Jonathan Bernstein on a stunning rebuke by a sitting senator of his own party’s president, and more on how Mr Trump’s latest feud could derail his agenda. (FT, NYT, Bloomberg)

Nobel Prize for Economics
Richard Thaler, the man behind “nudge” economics, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on incorporating insights from psychology into economic theory and policymaking. Here’s the FT’s Undercover Economist, Tim Harford, on why the award is well deserved. (FT)

Madrid’s constitutional nuclear option
The Spanish government is considering whether to invoke Article 155 of the constitution that would empower it to take any “necessary measures” to ensure compliance of a rogue autonomous region, should the Catalan government make a unilateral declaration of independence this week. Pressure on the Catalans to step back from the brink is building. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona on Sunday to urge that the region remain part of Spain. The boards of Catalonia-based infrastructure company Albertis and real estate company Inmobiliaria Colonial have called meetings for Monday to discuss moving their head offices out of Catalonia. (FT, Reuters)

US cuts back Turkey visas
The US has suspended all non-immigrant visa services in Turkey after Turkish authorities arrested a US embassy employee last week, escalating a brewing diplomatic crisis between the two allies. The embassy employee is the second to be arrested in the last year on allegations of allegiance to self-exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen. Ankara has been pressing Washington to extradite US-based Mr Gulen over his alleged role in an attempted coup in July 2016. Meanwhile, the Turkish lira and Borsa Istanbul fell on Monday. (FT, BBC)

The day ahead

Catalonia independence
Tensions remain high in the wealthy north-eastern Spanish region of Catalonia amid reports of plans for the Catalan parliament to vote on a unilateral declaration of independence. Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy says he would not rule out using the constitutional powers to remove Catalonia’s autonomous status if it claimed independence, while Madrid also warned that Catalan leader Carlos Puigdemont risked being jailed if he pushes ahead. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to call for talks at the weekend. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

What we’re reading

A decade of US markets in charts
The old stock market adage that you should sell at the top and buy at the bottom might need to be revised. The US stock market hit a peak 10 years ago on October 9 2007, before starting to collapse during the financial crisis. And yet anyone who bought the S&P 500 then would by now have doubled their money. Here are the charts that tell the story of the decade since the crisis. (FT)

How to write a blockbuster for China
A Hollywood executive with expertise in the Chinese market offers up six tips for those trying to strike it rich — including “pick the right villain” (that is, not a Chinese one) and no ghosts. (NYMag) 

The making of a white supremacist
Meet Michael Enoch Isaac Peinovich, aka Mike Enoch, who grew up with severe allergies, eczema and a penchant for shock jocks and has become one of the country’s pre-eminent neo-Nazi internet trolls. (New Yorker)

Sexism as opportunity
Far from feeling discouraged by the steady stream of gender discrimination and sexual harassment scandals in the tech sector, women studying at top business schools say they sense an opportunity to fix Silicon Valley’s problem with women. (FT)

Trump-Russia dossier hangs over Washington
A set of explosive reports by a former UK intelligence official first revealed nine months ago are casting an increasingly dark shadow over the Trump administration. The author of the documents, Christopher Steele, has been interviewed by investigators examining Russian interference in the 2016 US election, and the Senate and House intelligence committees are also asking to speak to the former MI6 officer. (Guardian)

Video of the day

Relearning Adam Smith
Many of the core ideas behind Adam Smith’s vision of capitalism are being ignored. Gillian Tett, the FT’s US managing editor, argues that four basic concepts need to be relearned if we are going to replace the opaque and exclusive system modern finance has created. (FT)

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