Google 'discovers Russia-linked ads' on YouTube and Gmail before USA election

Frederick Owens
October 12, 2017

Conaway said it was too soon to say whether Facebook did enough to protect against Russian efforts to influence the USA election through social media.

According to sources at Google, the ads on its various platforms, which include Gmail, YouTube and its Double Click ad network, were not purchased by the same Russian entity that bought the ads on Facebook. The information came from a source who was briefed on the company's probe, but was speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of Google's confidential investigation. Google has not found evidence that the accounts linked to Russian Federation used its political targeting tools, the people familiar with its investigation said. Some of those networks are based in the United States, the Washington Post reported, and can be highly lucrative.

An aide to Conaway did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee's Russian Federation investigation said Wednesday they intend to publicly release thousands of politically divisive Facebook ads purchased by Russian Federation during last year's presidential election. Facebook recently provided three congressional committees with more than 3,000 ads they had traced to a Russian internet agency.

Type in any search with "Russia" and "Facebook" and the result at the top of Google will be an ad from the social network.

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Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, runs the world's largest online advertising business and YouTube is the world's largest online video site. Whether those ads were part of an intelligence operation, and how much influence they ultimately had on the course of the election, remains largely speculative.

Google has been quite active in its unearthing of election interference especially since the breach that exposed Hillary Clinton used her personal computer (which apparently is a crime) and implicated Google in its involvement in asking for help to overthrow Syrian president Bashar Assad by tracking and mapping defections in Syria. Other ads appear to have been aimed at promoting anti-immigrant sentiment and racial animosity.

The move is somewhat embarrassing for the Silicon Valley technology giants who generally opposed Trump but might have been key players in helping the Russians get him elected.

Special counsel Rober Muller is investigating the Russian meddling in the past year U.S. election. Some congressional leaders are reportedly planning to introduce legislation that requires internet companies to disclose more information about purchases of political ad on their platforms.

Wednesday's meetings are ahead of a November 1 House Intelligence Committee hearing at which Facebook, Twitter and Google are expected to testify. Google was also invited but hasn't announced its plans.

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