Reports indicate that Google has come across evidence indicating that thousands of dollars were spent by Russian operatives on ads which appeared on its platforms such as Gmail, YouTube as well as on its search products. This was in an effort to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election last year.
“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,” said a spokesperson for Google.
However the ads that Google has discovered appear to be from a different entity and not the same one that purchased Facebook ads. The amount of money that was spent by the Russians on Google’s products and platforms is estimated to be approximately $100,000. This was roughly the same amount that was used to purchase ads on Facebook.
Google’s discovery will only add fuel to calls for further scrutiny on tech giants and the unwitting role they played in last year’s U.S. presidential election. According to intelligence agencies in the United States the goal of Russia was to assist in getting Donald Trump elected.
At the same time Microsoft has also announced that it is investigating whether ads were purchased by Russian operatives on its products and platforms including the Bing search engine. In the case of Facebook and Twitter the Russian entity suspected of being behind the ad purchases was the St. Petersburg, Russia-based Internet Research Agency.
According to the two social media platforms Russian operatives use the platform of the content farm to buy ads before posting politically divisive content aimed at influencing Americans during the pre and post-election period. The Russian content farm has hundreds of employees who work as ‘trolls’ and who are charged with the responsibility of posting content that is pro-Kremlin online.
Per researchers and lawmakers most of the content is usually discredited or fake and the trolls use fake social media accounts bearing European or American names to give the impression that they are residents of western countries.
Lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican Party have said that the intention of Russia was to create discord in the U.S. besides spreading propaganda and swaying the election. Some lawmakers from the Democratic Party are planning to come up with legislation which will require internet firms to reveal more information with regards to ads purchased on their platforms for political purposes.