‘Russian agents’ reportedly spent tens of thousands on Google ads during the 2016 election

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars to run adverts on Google’s various platforms intended to affect the 2016 US presidential election, according to a new report from The Washington Post.

Facebook has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks after it said that Russian agents had paid for ads to spread political division in the contentious election, and Twitter has also banned more than 200 accounts linked to a Russian propaganda unit.

But the new revelation illustrates that the Russian propaganda campaign may have been even wider still.

According to The Washington Post, the Google adverts tried to “spread disinformation,” and were a multi-pronged approach. They appeared on Google Search, as well as Gmail, YouTube, and DoubleClick adverts.

The total advert spend by “Russian agents” identified was reportedly less than $100,000, and it’s not clear if some came from “legitimate Russian accounts.” It’s not clear how many adverts there were, or how many times they were clicked on.

And on Sunday, The Daily Beast reported that Russia recruited YouTubers to “bash” Hillary Clinton, highlighting a pro-Donald Trump YouTube channel that it alleges was backed by the Russian government and was previously banned from Facebook and YouTube.

Google did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Facebook found roughly 3,000 adverts adverts linked to Russia – but it has refused to publicly release them despite calls from congressional investigators. This is because investigations including special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation is hindering it from releasing the ads, Business Insider previously reported.

In a blog post in September, Facebook chief security officer said that the “ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum.”

Meanwhile, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner has said that he believes Russian-linked accounts’ purchase of $100,000-worth of Facebook ads is only “the tip of the iceberg.”

On November 1, Facebook, Twitter, and Google will testify in a public hearing about Russian activity on social media and political advertising.