Google reportedly finds Russian-linked ads on YouTube, Gmail, more

Facebook, Twitter and now Google.

Amid growing revelations that the companies that many Americans rely on as news sources were exploited by a Russian disinformation campaign surrounding the U.S. presidential election, there’s a new report that “Russian agents” spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on Google properties such as its search engine, YouTube, Gmail and more.

What’s more, the Washington Post report — which cites unnamed sources — says the Russian agents appear to be different from the ones who bought ads on Facebook.

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Google had previously said it hadn’t found evidence of Russia-linked ads on its platforms. But last week, the company was reported to be looking into the matter.

Monday, a Google spokesperson confirmed that, sending SiliconBeat the following statement in response to a request for comment:

“We have a set of strict ads policies including limits on political ad targeting and prohibitions on targeting based on race and religion. We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries.”

The Washington Post reports that Google found the Russian links to ads on its platforms by using data from Twitter accounts. Google did this by downloading historical data that Twitter makes available to developers, according to the Post’s sources. Google and Twitter reportedly did not collaborate on the effort, which is supposedly still in its early stages.

Lawmakers have summoned Facebook, Twitter and Google for public hearings on the matter. The tech giants are scheduled for a double-header on Nov. 1: They have been asked to testify before both the Senate and House intelligence committees.

The news about Google comes amid a flurry of reports about how Facebook is dealing with bearing the brunt of the blame for “fake news” affecting the election. In September, the social network said it found $100,000 worth of spending on divisive political ads on its platform by hundreds of Russian-linked fake accounts and pages during a period that included the 2016 presidential election.

Now Facebook is telling advertisers that political and other types of ads will be reviewed by humans before they go live, according to Axios.

The companies also are facing possible legislation that would require public disclosure about the political ads on their platforms.


Photo: A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View in 2015. (Jeff Chiu/AP)


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