Google discovers operatives spent thousands on Russian-backed ads during US election: reports

Google discovers operatives spent thousands on Russian-backed ads during US election: reports

Google discovers operatives spent thousands on Russian-backed ads during US election: reports

Updated 10 October 2017, 7:20 AEDT

Google finds Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its YouTube, Gmail and Google Search products in an effort to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election, a person briefed on the company's probe says.

Google has discovered Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its YouTube, Gmail and Google Search products in an effort to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election, a person briefed on the company's probe has said.

Key points:

  • Google uncovered less than $US100,000 in potential ad spending
  • It does not appear to be linked to the Kremlin's so-called 'troll factory'
  • US intelligence agencies say Russia attempted to influence the 2016 US Election

The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook, but may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, according to the source, who was not authorised to discuss details of Google's confidential investigation.

Russia's ad purchases were first reported by The Washington Post.

The revelation is likely to fuel further scrutiny of the role that Silicon Valley technology giants may have unwittingly played during last year's election.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow's goal was to help elect US President Donald Trump over rival Hilary Clinton.

Google has uncovered less than $100,000 in ad spending potentially linked to Russian actors, the source said.

Both Twitter and Facebook recently detected and disclosed that suspected Russian operatives, working for a content farm known as the Internet Research Agency in St Petersburg, Russia, used their platforms to purchase ads and post content that was politically divisive.

The Internet Research Agency employ hundreds of so-called "trolls" who posted pro-Kremlin content, much of it fake or discredited, under the guise of phony social media accounts that posed as American or European, according to lawmakers and researchers.

Facebook announced last month it had unearthed $100,000 in spending by the Internet Research Agency and, under pressure from lawmakers, has pledged to be more transparent about how its ads are purchased and targeted.

Google's review had been more robust than ones undertaken so far by Facebook or Twitter, the source said.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, did not deny the story, and in a statement pointed to its existing ad policies that limit political ad targeting and prohibit targeting based on race or religion.

"We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries," a Google spokeswoman said.

Google runs the world's largest online advertising business and YouTube is the world's largest online video site.

Congressional committees have launched multiple investigations into the Russian interference.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have said Russia intended to sow discord in the United States, spread propaganda and sway the election.

Google officials have been invited to testify publicly about Russian attempts to use their platforms to influence the election before both the House and Senate intelligence committees on November 1 alongside Facebook and Twitter.

While Facebook and Twitter have confirmed plans to attend, Google has not.

Reuters