Google platforms ‘used by Russia to influence US election’

Silicon Valley giants uncover evidence of Kremlin-backed adverts on YouTube and Gmail

Google logo reflected in an eye
(Image credit: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Google has for the first time uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited its various platforms in an attempt to interfere in last year’s US presidential election.

Citing unnamed sources within the company, The Washington Post claims the Silicon Valley giant has uncovered tens of thousands of dollars spent on ads by Russia agents on YouTube, Google Search, Gmail and the company’s DoubleClick ad network.

Google had previously downplayed Russian meddling on its platforms and has to date avoided much of the scrutiny that has fallen on its rivals Twitter and, especially, Facebook.

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Last week, Facebook admitted some 3,400 ads purchased by operatives associated with the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-government affiliated troll farm, had been viewed by 10 million users in the run up to the election. It is believed these formed part of a sophisticated disinformation campaign orchestrated by the Kremlin targeting US swing states crucial to Donald Trump’s victory.

Twitter has also targeted accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, however, the most recent discovery by Google is particularly 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”, says the Post.

Google has so far failed to confirm whether it will give evidence alongside Facebook and Twitter to Congressional committees investigating alleged foreign interference in the election next month. However, pressure from Congress has prompted the company to launch an internal investigation into the matter, which is still in its early stages.

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