An exclusive report in the Washington Post Monday, shows that Google has uncovered evidence that Russian nationals spent thousands of dollars on online ads, to spread disinformation ahead of the closely contested 2016 US election.
This is the first time Google has been reported to admit to evidence of this activity. Facebook and Twitter have previously stated Russian agents spent money to push paid ads on their platforms to create disarray ahead of the election, that was eventually won by current US president Donald Trump.
According to the report, Google has discovered that tens of thousands of US dollars have been spent on ads across its networks. They include YouTube, Gmail, Google Search and others.
And, a significant discovery has been that the source of the funding for the ads, appears to be different from those identified by Facebook.
The Washington Post report said that could be “a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.”
Google will join Facebook and Twitter in giving evidence before congress in November. The hearing they will attend relates to ads, accounts and other activity ahead of the 2016 US election.
As with other tech giants, Google has previously downplayed the likelihood of Russian involvement on its platforms ahead of last year’s US presidential elections. However, these latest findings give an indication of just how much Russian activity there was online, during that period.
Global social media platform Facebook, meanwhile, has also recently said that it had to shut down thousands of fake accounts in the run up to the German election last month.
The news comes as a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows the US president’s popularity is on the slide in parts of rural America – where much of his vote wining support came from. According to Reuters, the poll showed Trump lost support from men, white people and people who never went to college