Google uncovers evidence of Russian interference ahead of 2016 U.S. election


As Google is continuing a probe into alleged Russian attempts to influence the results of the USA presidential election by buying digital ads, some mainstream media outlets have already been quick to claim alleged discoveries on the issue. Even so, sources indicate Google's investigation is still ongoing, and while they have determined less than $100,000 was spent on ads during the election, they can not yet determine if the purchasers were legitimate Russian accounts or associated trolls.

For just the first time Google has uncovered evidence that operatives from Russian Federation exploited the platforms of the Internet giant in an attempt to interfere with the US election in 2016, according to those familiar with the investigation the company carried out. The internal probe, reports the Post, is still in "early stages", and Google is looking at its records and sharing its data with Facebook. These Russian, or Russia-affiliated agents apparently purchased tens of thousands of dollars' worth of ads on Google platforms like YouTube, Gmail and Google search.

Meanwhile, Congress has initiated several investigations into the matter that Russian-bought ads were a planned attack to rig the election and sow discord in the United States. That means Russian actors have penetrated all the large Silicon Valley ad firms, as Facebook and Twitter recently revealed similar attacks.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O , did not deny the story, and in a statement pointed to its existing ad policies that limit political ad targeting and prohibit targeting based on race or religion.

"This was a broad search, including, for instance, ads bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian - even though they didn't necessarily violate any policy or law".

The amount of money spent on Google ads matches the sum reportedly spent by Russian operatives on Facebook in the lead-up to the election.

On Monday, Reuters revealed that Russian operatives purchased advertisements to influence the 2016 Presidential election. The company is testifying before congressional investigators on November 1, along with Twitter.

Facebook reportedly unearthed $100,000 (£76,000) in spending from a single Russian group, the Internet Research Agency.

Twitter, meanwhile, also "proactively" shared with Congress a "round-up of ads" that Russia's state-run TV network Russia Today (RT) targeted at US users in 2016.

However, the company launched an investigation after Congress urged the technology giant to determine whether the Russians used its various platforms in order to meddle in the election.