After Facebook and Twitter admitting the presence of Russian operatives on their platforms to influence the 2016 United States presidential election, Google has reportedly discovered that millions were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google's platforms, including YouTube. According to Reuters, the Internet Research Agency hired hundreds of "trolls" to post pro-Kremlin content under fake social media accounts that posed to be American or European.
According to the story, sources familiar with an internal investigation revealed Google had "uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company's platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election". Notably, the Post reports that the company responsible for buying the Facebook ads was not the same entity that purchased the Google ads.
Facebook has said the ads reached about 10 million USA users of the service, nearly certainly enough to affect or even change the outcome of the election.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw an unprecedented cyber campaign to meddle in the election, with the apparent aim of promoting Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In September, a spokesperson for Google said the company always monitors for any violations of abuse of its policies and has seen nothing to indicate there was an ad campaign run across its platforms.
The sources added that the company ascertain whether this ad bought a "Troll" or some of them were paid from ordinary Russian accounts.
Google is the world's largest online advertisement platform.
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Google did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.
This is the first time Google has been reported to admit to evidence of this activity.
As with other tech giants, Google has previously downplayed the likelihood of Russian involvement on its platforms ahead of last year's USA presidential elections.
The disclosures have brought heightened scrutiny around the company's ad practices, and Facebook has already announced changes.
Executives from Twitter and Facebook have said they will testify before Congress on November 1 regarding Russia's attempts to sow dissent on the social media platforms.
It's not just Facebook and Twitter. Almost $275,000 worth of ads on Twitter were bought by RT, a Russian government-linked news outlet, during 2016.