Russian Federation reportedly used Google, Gmail, YouTube to interfere with 2016 election


The Washington Post is reporting that Google has for the first time uncovered evidence that Russian operatives used the Internet giant's platforms in an effort interfere in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Google's investigation pulled data from Twitter to cross-reference if Russian accounts paid for fake ads.

It's early days for Google, and it remains to be seen whether it will testify before United States congress on 1 Nov, along with Facebook and Twitter executives.

The Post also noted that Google had previously downplayed Russian meddling on its platforms, citing a Google spokeswoman who told the Post last month that the company is "always monitoring for abuse or violations of our policies and we've seen no evidence this type of ad campaign was run on our platforms".

The ads appeared mainly alongside Google's search results or on websites that use Google ads outside the search company's own sites.

Significantly, these adverts don't appear to come from the same sources as the Russian-linked ad campaign on Facebook.

In late September, Zuckerberg used his Facebook Live feature to outline steps the company is taking to make its platform less vulnerable to political issues like selling ads to foreign operatives looking to influence US elections.

Andrea Faville, a spokesperson for Google previously said no evidence of malicious ad campaigns had been found.

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The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Most of the Facebook accounts were trolls tied to the Internet Research Agency, "troll farm" connected to the Russian government, but whether Google's buyers were the same is also unclear.

Parscale told correspondent Lesley Stahl that his primary job was to send hundreds of thousands of "carefully-tailored, low-priced digital ads" to millions of people on Google search, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.

"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".

Though the videos were only viewed hundreds of times, they demonstrated for the first time that Russian Federation allegedly deployed real people, not just fake online accounts or bots, to further spread propaganda.

The disclosures have brought heightened scrutiny around the company's ad practices, and Facebook has already announced changes.

It's not just Facebook and Twitter.

The three companies have been asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on November 1.