While Facebook has long been a perceived (albeit unwilling) culprit in the ongoing investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election, Google has largely avoided any significant bombshells. Even so, the technology behemoth agreed to testify before the Senate in late September alongside representatives from Facebook and Twitter. And when Alphabet Inc.’s best and brightest do show up before Congress, they’re going to have some serious explaining to do following Monday’s explosive Washington Post report. That’s because the company reportedly discovered Russian agents in its ad system during 2016.
According to the story, sources familiar with an internal investigation revealed Google had “uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election.” These Russian, or Russia-affiliated agents apparently purchased tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of ads on Google platforms like YouTube, Gmail and Google search. What’s more, they also placed ads in Google’s DoubleClick Ad network, which many Google-affiliated and third-party websites and applications make use of to generate revenue.
The company’s investigation has apparently determined these ad purchases were made during the 2016 presidential election. To make matters worse, however, it seems their source isn’t a familiar one:
The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook — a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.
Google refused to comment officially on the Post‘s story. As the article notes, the company has previously downplayed its involvement in Russia’s potential election interference. Or as spokesperson Andrea Faville previously said, they are “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.” Even so, sources indicate Google’s investigation is still ongoing, and while they have determined less than $100,000 was spent on ads during the election, they cannot yet determine if the purchasers were legitimate Russian accounts or associated trolls.
(Via Washington Post)