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Google unearths evidence of large-scale Russian interference during the United States election

10 October 2017, 12:34 | Gina Pena

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

Google uncovers evidence of Russian interference ahead of 2016 US election

It was also pressure from Congress to determine the extent to which Russian operatives use social media and buy ads across internet platforms that sparked Google's own investigation.

The Washington Post noted that until now, Google has "mostly avoided the scrutiny" that's focused on Facebook, which recently provided Congressional investigators with about 3,000 Russian-bought ads. They downloaded the service's historical data and looked to connect Russian-linked Twitter accounts to Google accounts that had made advertising purchases during the election. The internal probe, reports the Post, is still in "early stages", and Google is looking at its records and sharing its data with Facebook. Facebook and Twitter have previously stated Russian agents spent money to push paid ads on their platforms to create disarray ahead of the election, that was eventually won by current U.S. president Donald Trump.

Facebook recently revealed that for just $100,000, apparent Russia-linked buyers placed about 3,000 advertisements on its pages a year ago that appeared aimed at influencing the election in which Trump defeated his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

That includes efforts on Capitol Hill to study Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Google has not yet said whether it has accepted an invitation to do the same. Since Google is the world's largest online advertising business and YouTube is the world's largest online video site, there were always good chances that Russian operatives exploited the platforms to forward their propaganda.

Now it appears the operatives used Google's various ad platforms to do the same.

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The total ad spend by "Russian agents" identified was reportedly less than $100,000, and it's unclear whether some came from "legitimate Russian accounts".

This is the first time Google has been reported to admit to evidence of this activity.

Twitter, meanwhile, shut down 201 accounts associated with Internet Research Agency, a firm with reported Russian ties that spent over $274,000 on ads.

Facebook, Twitter and now Google. Critics are angry that Facebook won't reveal the Russian ads to the public, and many diverse voices are calling for tighter government regulations over the company. But Google has declined to say if it plans to testify publicly before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are leading the investigation and intend to hold two hearings on November 1.



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