For just the first time Google has uncovered evidence that operatives from Russia exploited the platforms of the Internet giant in an attempt to interfere with the U.S. election in 2016, according to those familiar with the investigation the company carried out.
The Internet behemoth found that thousands of dollars had been spent on advertisements by agents from Russia whose goal was to spread disinformation across the many products of Google, including YouTube, and advertising that is associated with Gmail, Google search and the DoubleClick ad network of the company, said the same people.
Google operates the largest online business of advertising in the world, and YouTube is the largest video site online in the world.
Google’s discovery is significant as well because the advertisements do not seem to be from the same farm of trolls affiliated with the Kremlin that bought Facebook ads, which is a sign that the effort in Russia to spread online disinformation might be far broader of a problem than first thought by companies in Silicon Valley.
Previously Google downplayed the Russian meddling problem across its platforms. In September, a spokesperson for Google said the company always monitors for any violations of abuse of its policies and has seen nothing to indicate there was an ad campaign run across its platforms.
Google nevertheless launched its own investigation, as Congress pressured tech companies to determine how operatives from Russia used online advertising, social media and other tools to help influence the presidential election of 2016 and create discord across society in the U.S.
Google would not provide any comment related to the matter. 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 Russia.
Google to date has avoided for the most part scrutiny that has hit its biggest rival Facebook. The social media giant recently shared over 3,000 ads purchased by Russia with investigators in Congress that had been bought by operatives that were associated with the Russian government affiliated group of trolls known as the Internet Research Agency.
Some of those ads, which cost approximately $100,000, touted GOP nominee Donald Trump, Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders, while others appeared to be aimed at trying to divide the U.S. through promoting sentiment that was anti-immigrant as well as racial animosity.