clock menu more-arrow no yes

Google has found a small number of 2016 election ads tied to Russian government forces

But the company, which isn’t saying much publicly, is still investigating

Google Updates Its Logo Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Russian agents appeared to purchase search and display ads on Google valued at about $4,700 in a bid to spread disinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, sources confirmed to Recode on Monday.

As part of a broad internal inquiry — which spans sites like YouTube — Google also identified about $53,000 in ads that are connected to Russia, through markers like a local billing address, but may not be explicitly tied to the Kremlin, the source said.

For its part, Google declined to comment Monday on the specific nature of the company’s early findings. Some of the details were first reported Monday by The Washington Post.

In a statement, though, a Google spokeswoman told Recode: “We have a set of strict ads policies including 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.”

That includes efforts on Capitol Hill to study Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. 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.

The roughly $4,700 in Russian-bought Google ads is only an initial estimate, and for the moment, it’s much less than the Kremlin’s apparent disinformation campaign on Facebook. There, approximately 470 accounts tied to known Russian trolls purchased 3,000 ads, totaling about $100,000. And those ads linked back to profiles and pages that sought to provoke racial, religious and other social tensions, all in a bid to cause unrest in the United States.

Facebook shared some of the data from its probe with Twitter and Google, sources previously told Recode. As a result, Twitter identified about 200 related, Russia-tied accounts on its platform, though none of them had been registered as advertisers.

It is unclear if some of the same ad buyers on Facebook also purchased ads on Google. But sources did say that data shared by its tech industry counterparts aided Google’s investigation, a broad inquiry that has tapped the search giant’s own in-house tech think tank, called Jigsaw, which has previously studied issues like online extremism.

Google’s probe also includes YouTube, where Russian agents appear to have set up an account — with fake black vloggers -- accusing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of racism. Similar pages had been taken down by Facebook and Twitter, according to a report Monday by The Daily Beast.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.