Google uncovers Russia-backed ads on YouTube and Gmail

Lynne Hanson
October 10, 2017

The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook Inc FB.O , but may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, according to the source, who was not authorized to discuss details of Google's confidential investigation. Google did not comment on the matter to the Post, which cited people familiar with the company's investigation. Google did this by downloading historical data that Twitter makes available to developers, according to the Post's sources.

It's early days for Google, and it remains to be seen whether it will testify before U.S. congress on 1 Nov, along with Facebook and Twitter executives.

Google has reportedly discovered evidence that Russian Federation used its platforms in a bid to influence the 2016 United States presidential election.

The company said it will not release the ads publicly. Facebook has received the most attention for the Russian-backed ads, and has promised to give the government 3,000 of them for study, now taking the threat to its platform and Democracy itself that they represent much more seriously.

The U.S. Congress has opened multiple investigations to determine the level of Russian interference in the 2016 election. There were also posts created to stoke cultural tensions in the country, such as anti-immigrant material, according to the Washington Post. 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.

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The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, has said he thinks Russian-linked accounts' purchase of $100,000 worth of Facebook ads is only "the tip of the iceberg". Google has yet to confirm whether it will also give evidence at the hearing.

A Google spokeswoman, Andrea Faville, said the company had a policy that limits political ad targeting and prohibits targeting based on race and religion. The only thing that is surprising, he said, is that it took so long for Google to find the activity.

It's not just Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook has announced changes to the way adverts are signed off, including "additional human review and approval" for some targeted ads. Congress is reportedly set to have representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google testify on the incidents.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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