Amid growing revelations that the companies that many Americans rely on as news sources were exploited by a Russian disinformation campaign surrounding the US 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.
"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 deepening our investigation of diversion attempts of our systems, and work with researchers and other companies, and give our assistance to the ongoing investigations", said Google. Notably, the Post reports that the company responsible for buying the Facebook ads was not the same entity that purchased the Google ads. They include YouTube, Gmail, Google Search and others.
Google's discovery is significant as well because the advertisements do not seem to be from the same farm of trolls affiliated with the Kremlin that bought Facebook ads, which is a sign that the effort in Russian Federation to spread online disinformation might be far broader of a problem than first thought by companies in Silicon Valley.
Twitter stated that RT - which the USA intelligence community in January said played a role in Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election - spent $274,100 running ads in the United States previous year.
Twitter and Facebook have said Russian Federation bought ads and had accounts on their platforms.
Google, which runs the world's largest online advertising business, had largely evaded public or congressional scrutiny until now.
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The total ad spend by "Russian agents" identified was reportedly less than $100,000, and it's unclear whether some came from "legitimate Russian accounts".
Andrea Faville, a spokesperson for Google previously said no evidence of malicious ad campaigns had been found.
Google has declined to provide a comment on the story to the newspaper. Twitter has not said how many times the Russian disinformation was shared.
It's not just Facebook and Twitter. "In this part of our review, we found approximately $US50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2200 ads". Jigsaw has been doing research for 18 months on fake news and misinformation campaigns and it is using some of those findings in the investigation into Russian election meddling, the person said.
Other social media giants, Facebook and Twitter, have already indicated that they discovered content financed by Russian interests.