Google uncovered Russia-backed ads on YouTube, Gmail, reports Washington Post

Tuesday, 10 Oct, 2017

The search engine giant has uncovered about $100,000 worth of Russian ads aimed at spreading disinformation and disunity, sources familiar with a Google investigation told The Washington Post.

After Facebook and Twitter admitting the presence of Russian operatives on their platforms to influence the 2016 United States presidential election, Google has reportedly discovered that millions were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google's platforms, including YouTube.

Until now, it was believed Russian Federation only used Facebook to affect the election outcome and sow the seeds of discord in the run up to the poll nearly 12 months ago. US intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow's goal was to help elect Donald Trump.

While Facebook, the company trailing Google in the online advertising race, has received scorn for its role in sharing disinformation leading up to last year's election, Google has largely been unscathed. Those familiar with this investigations said the company was looking at a group of ads with a cost of under $100,000 and that it continued to sort out if all those ads were from trolls or if some originated from legitimate accounts in Russian Federation. Associated accounts are confirmed to have purchased ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Google's review had been more robust than ones undertaken so far by Facebook or Twitter, the source said. The internal probe, reports the Post, is still in "early stages", and Google is looking at its records and sharing its data with Facebook.

The content of the ads that flowed through Google was not clear.

Google did not comment for the Washington Post story.

The report also claimed that a new "Kremlin-affiliated troll farm" may have been involved in this campaign. They posed as Black Lives Matter sympathizers who were sharply critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have said Russian Federation meant to sow discord in the United States, spread propaganda and sway the election. Facebook has received the most attention for the Russian-backed ads, and has promised to give the government 3,000 of them for study, now taking the threat to its platform and Democracy itself that they represent much more seriously.

The company said it will not release the ads publicly.