Russians spent thousands on Google ads and bad rap videos, report says

October 9, 2017, 9:52amUpdated on October 9, 2017, 11:55am

It’s not just Facebook: Silicon Valley’s other ad giant has reportedly found that Russian agents purchased ads on its platforms in order to influence the 2016 election.

The Russians spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on ads across Google services, including Gmail, YouTube, and Google’s search engine, according to the Washington Post. The YouTube ads, the Daily Beast reports, included paid promotion for anti-Hillary Clinton rap videos made by a pair of aspiring YouTube stars named “Williams & Kalvin.”

Though Google has been examining potential Russian 2016 electoral monkeying on its own platform for the last few weeks — cooperating with both Facebook and federal investigators — this would be the first time the company has revealed evidence of such interference. The company is reportedly still sifting through which Russian activity is legitimate, and which might be part of the 2016 Kremlin-directed influence campaign.

“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 spokesperson Andrea Faville said in a statement.

Though Facebook has been the focus of Congressional ire over the last month for its initial reluctance to disclose details about Russian government-linked ads, the company has since opened up, somewhat. Twitter has also taken some heat, as it revealed at the end of September that it found about 200 accounts associated with Russian operatives.

Facebook now claims that the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm associated with the Russian government, spent about $100,000 on ads that reached an estimated 10 million people. The Google ads do not appear to have been bought by the same agency, according to the Post, which suggests “the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.”

All three companies — Google, Twitter, and Facebook — have been asked to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on the matter at a Nov. 1 hearing. Twitter and Facebook have agreed to show up; Google has not yet said whether it has accepted the invitation.

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