According to reports, Google has found evidence that Russian operatives have likely spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads in a bid to sway the 2016 US election.
The Washington Post says that these adverts aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, including YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail and the company’s DoubleClick ad network.
The New York Times reported that accounts connected with the Russian government spent $4,700 on search and display ads, while $53,000 was spent on ads with political material.
“The adverts do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated source that bought ads on Facebook.”
The US intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had tried to sway the election in favor of Donald Trump.
Although the Russian government strongly denies this claim and Mr. Trump also denies any terms with the Kremlin, the issue is still under investigation by the US congressional committees and the Department of justice.
On the other side, Google says, “We have a set of strict 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”.
“It’s a system,” Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University said. “It’s not necessarily magic. It’s social media marketing at an expert level… This is very well executed.”
Other online social companies are also investigating whether any election-related adverts had been bought by Russia.
Microsoft reported that it is also investigating for any Russian-bought adverts.
Facebook said in September that it had uncovered a Russian-funded campaign, promoting political messages on its network. It also claimed that $100,000 was spent on about 3,000 Russian-backed ads over a period of two years.
Mark Zuckerberg, later stated that his company would pass the information to the US investigators.