Google has reportedly found evidence that Russian operatives spent vast sums of money on purchasing ads on the Silicone Valley giant’s various platforms, allegedly in an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Among the platforms used was YouTube, owned by Google, where it was discovered that Russians had spent many thousands of dollars to allegedly spread false information and “fake news.” Further Google products involved in the operation are Google search, Gmail, and the DoubleClick advertising network.
It is alleged that many of the ads were used to sow racial divisions in the United States, while furiously promoting Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Jill Stein as the most favored candidates overall.
The news comes on the back of the discovery that a Kremlin-affiliated hacking operation purchased ads on Facebook to meddle in the election. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, the recent revelations point to the possibility that the Russian interference project may consist of a much broader network than what was initially thought.
When Google was previously pressed for answers to the allegations that their platforms were used by Russians to infiltrate and influence the 2016 election campaign, a company representative, Andrea Faville, was reticent to concede that it may be the case.
“[Google is] always monitoring for abuse or violations of our policies and we’ve seen no evidence this type of ad campaign was run on our platforms.”
However, despite the hesitation, Google proceeded with its own internal investigation, which led to the newly found evidence that Russian agents did, in fact, make extensive use of their products. The company has also been looking into various other digital and social media platforms that were used by the Russians during the election.
Among the other online platforms that were part of the reported campaign by Russian agents are Google’s chief rival Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook recently provided U.S. Congress investigators with proof of roughly 3,000 adverts that were purchased by the Internet Research Agency, a known Kremlin-affiliated internet troll operation.
One of the researchers involved in the investigation told the Post that the scale of Russian interference in the election is likely significantly larger than what is currently thought. Many of the fabricated Facebook posts were shared by hundreds of millions of users at a time, according to Jonathan Albright from Columbia University.
One of the ways in which Google was able to uncover the Russian meddling evidence was by mining data acquired from Twitter. Google was thus able to link the disinformation that was being spread during the election to hundreds of Russian Twitter accounts that had purchased Google ad services via the social media platform.
Twitter recently announced that they had discovered three accounts owned by the Russia Today news site. Moreover, Twitter was able to link the accounts – that had spent nearly $300,000 on political ads – to the Kremlin.
The Google internal investigation is still in its early stages and as such, the full extent to which Russians used their products is yet to be determined.
[Featured Image by Leon Neal/Getty Images]