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

After Facebook and Twitter admitting the presence of Russian operatives on their platforms to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Google has reportedly discovered that millions were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google's platforms, including YouTube.

Google began the investigation after Congress asked tech companies to help determine how Russian agents used social media to influence the election.

Those sources told the Washington Post that the ads Google is looking at "cost less than $100,000" and that the company is still working to distinguish whether all of the ads were bought by operatives or if some came from legitimate accounts. The company did not immediately comment on The Washington Post's story. However, the Google ads were reportedly not purchased by the same Vladimir Putin-affiliated group that bought ads on Facebook, meaning the problem could be more widespread than thought. That means ads on services like Gmail, Google Search, and YouTube may have been paid for by Kremlin-connected accounts, much like at Facebook and Twitter.

While Facebook has always been a perceived (albeit unwilling) culprit in the ongoing investigation into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election, Google has largely avoided any significant bombshells.

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In response to the television segment, Facebook tried to distance itself from the Trump campaign, telling 60 Minutes in a statement that although Facebook teams offer insight into how the company's products work, "campaigns make their own strategic decisions about how to use the Facebook platform". But Google has declined to say if it plans to testify publicly before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are leading the investigation and intend to hold two hearings on November 1. According to the report, Google and Twitter have not been cooperating with each other in their investigations. Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee reaffirmed the intelligence community's assessment that Russian Federation attempted to influence the election. According to the company, these profiles bought about 3,000 ads ahead of Election Day.

Facebook announced last month it had unearthed $100,000 in spending by the Internet Research Agency and, under pressure from lawmakers, has pledged to be more transparent about how its ads are purchased and targeted.

It has turned the ads over to congressional panels investigating Russian involvement in the election. Almost $275,000 worth of ads on Twitter were bought by RT, a Russian government-linked news outlet, during 2016.

Schrage, Facebook vice president for policy and communications, said in the blog post that the ads included "political messages across the ideological spectrum".

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