Reports: Google uncovered Russian-bought ads tied to 2016 election

Google has reportedly uncovered ad buys from Russian accounts last year that were possibly intended to spread misinformation in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. File photo by Asif Islam/Shutterstock

Oct. 9 (UPI) — Tech firm Google said it has uncovered ads from its platform that were purchased by Russian accounts –possibly to spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election.

Google launched an investigation into the matter last month, and Congress has asked U.S. tech companies to determine how Russian operatives may have used social media, online advertising and other digital tools to influence the Nov. 8 vote.

The Washington Post reported Monday that the ads found by Google do not appear to be from the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency that had purchased bought ads on Facebook.

The advertising appeared on YouTube, Google search advertising, Gmail advertising and Google’s DoubleClick ad platform.

Google has more than 40 percent revenue share for digital advertising in the United States, and its YouTube platform is the largest online video service in the world.

The Russian ads appearing on Google platforms cost a total of about $100,000, the Post report said. They supported then-candidate Donald Trump, Democrat Bernie Sanders and Green party candidate Jill Stein during the campaign. Other ads promoted anti-immigrant sentiment and racial animosity.

Google did not comment directly on the findings Monday, but said it has a set of strict ads policies that include “limits on political ad targeting” and “prohibitions on targeting based on race and religion.”

“We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries,” Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville said.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have all agreed to testify at public hearings before the Senate and House intelligence committees on Nov. 1, company sources told CNN. Google may also meet privately with the committees before then.

Facebook said it has identified 470 accounts and 3,000 ads linked to Moscow’s Internet Research Agency, and shared those ads with congressional investigators.

Twitter said that it shut down 200 accounts from the agency and the news site RT, which is also connected to the Kremlin, spent $274,000 last year.

In January, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian president Vladmir Putin played a role in the U.S. election to help Trump win.

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