OXFORD institutions spent thousands of pounds on internet advertising last year, despite major platforms becoming embroiled in rows over fake news and privacy.

Figures obtained using freedom of information requests show that the city's councils, hospitals and universities all paid the likes of Facebook and Google to help spread their messages to the public.

Collectively, more than £300,000 was spent by the organisations which responded to the requests, with Google being by far the biggest beneficiary, accounting for more than half of this total figure.

It comes as the UK's Competition and Markets Authority’s launched an investigation into the way Google and Facebook collect and exploit personal data and have used their power to dominate the £13bn UK digital advertising market.

Major companies including Unilever and Procter & Gamble have threatened to withdraw advertising from these platforms in the past because of concerns over a lack of action to remove 'hateful' content.

Oxford University said it has paid Google £161,443.01 from its central marketing and advertising budget so far this academic year (which ends in August).

The city's other university, Oxford Brookes, spent £72,244 with Google in order for its advertising to appear at the top of search lists.

It also released details of payments of £6,209.92 to Linkedin, the social network for businesses, £1,313.12 to Facebook and £15,024 to YouTube.

In its response the university said: "These channels make very efficient and effective use of the budget. It allows us to reach our target audience in the space of their choice and in a manner that ensures good engagement with an ability for them to contact us for more information when they seek it."

Five councils in Oxfordshire said they spent money on Facebook, with West Oxfordshire District Council declining to answer the information request because its marketing is handled by an external company.

The biggest spender was Oxfordshire County Council with £22,300.09, while South Oxfordshire District Council spent £4,245, Vale of White Horse District Council spent £3,951.38 and Cherwell District Council spent £552.94.

Oxford City Council spent £4,707.81 on Facebook and Instagram, which is now owned by the Silicon Valley giant.

It said the money was used to promote specific issues including the launch of the new drugs taskforce which encouraged residents to report incidents of drug taking and dealing within their communities.

Adverts were also placed to update people on the Zero Emission Zone plans, a healthy living programme for those living with diabetes and a consultation on where council ward boundaries should be placed.

The authority said the adverts were seen 1,729,123 times and were used in conjunction with other advertising in broadcast and print media.

Its response said: "We see it as our duty to inform Oxford residents about consultations, events and significant changes to their city – and to do that in the most effective and best value for money way."

Thames Valley Police also refused the request, saying it would take too much work to sift through the accounts.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it spent £3,810 on social media advertising, but did not specify which platforms were used.

The two southern Oxfordshire councils were the only ones to spend money with Twitter, with £3,000 spent by both SODC and the Vale.

Last year Facebook was fined a record £500,000 by The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) after it concluded that the social networking site failed to safeguard its users’ information and that it failed to be transparent about how that data was harvested by others during the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg had since pledged to fix its privacy problems.