Published: Tue, October 10, 2017
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Russia-backed advertisements on Google

Altogether, this gave the Kremlin access to the largest online ad business and the largest video website in the world.

The Russian propaganda ads that flooded social media during the 2016 presidential election also spread through Google and its major products, including YouTube and Gmail, according to a report on Monday.

Google previously denied finding evidence of political ad-related interference on its platforms, but the people familiar with the investigation say the company is looking at a series of ads costing less than $100,000 that either came from trolls or legitimate Russian accounts.

The total ad buy was around $100,000 and the ads were possibly viewed by up to 10 million people.

The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook Inc, which may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, the paper reported.

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Other social media giants, Facebook and Twitter, have already indicated that they discovered content financed by Russian interests.

Google did not comment on the report.

The company nonetheless launched an investigation into the matter as Congress sought to probe the extent to which online social networks were manipulated by Russian interests to covertly influence the United States election.

Previously, both Facebook and Twitter admitted to Russian-bought ads on their respective platforms.

And, a significant discovery has been that the source of the funding for the ads, appears to be different from those identified by Facebook.

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Twitter, meanwhile, also "proactively" shared with Congress a "round-up of ads" that Russia's state-run TV network Russia Today (RT) targeted at US users in 2016.

Meanwhile, Congress has started multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, with lawmakers on both sides saying Russia meant to sow discord in the U.S., spread propaganda and sway the election to elect Donald Trump. Almost $275,000 worth of ads on Twitter were bought by RT, a Russian government-linked news outlet, during 2016.

Though the videos were only viewed hundreds of times, they demonstrated for the first time that Russian Federation allegedly deployed real people, not just fake online accounts or bots, to further spread propaganda.

In a statement, Google said it has a "set of strict ads policies including limits on political ad targeting and prohibitions on targeting based on race and religion".

Executives from Facebook and Twitter will testify before Congress in November.

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