Google 'Suddenly' Discovers Questionable "Russia Ads" On YouTube, DoubleClick, Gmail

Update (Noon ET): In an emailed statement, Google confirmed that it found $100,000 worth of questionable ads and said it's working with researchers and “other companies” on investigating abuse of its systems.

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Et tu, Google?

For the first time since Sen. Mark Warner began questioning whether Silicon Valley tech giants have been “doing enough” to root out and expose examples of alleged Russian interference in the November 2016 election, Google has reportedly discovered that Russia-linked operatives deceptively purchased tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of advertising on YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail and the company’s DoubleClick ad network, according to the Washington Post. Google operates the largest advertising platform in the world, and YouTube is the world’s largest video-advertising platform.

According to WaPo, Google’s discovery is “significant” because the advertisements in question do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook, which the paper says suggests that Kremlin disinformation efforts were much broader than lawmakers and Silicon Valley had believed.

As WaPo pointed out, Google had previously played down the possibility that nefarious Russian agitators could’ve slipped past the company’s sophisticated monitoring techniques. The company has been criticized for being less willing to cooperate with Congressional investigators than Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, given the scant nature of said evidence, this suggests that reports of a separate interference campaign should be taken with a grain of salt.

Google previously downplayed the problem of Russian meddling on its platforms. Last month, Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville told The Washington Post that the company is "always monitoring for abuse or violations of our policies and we've seen no evidence this type of ad campaign was run on our platforms."


Nevertheless, Google launched an investigation into the matter, as Congress pressed technology companies to determine how Russian operatives used social media, online advertising, and other digital tools to influence the 2016 presidential contest and foment discord in U.S. society.

Like Facebook before it, the ad buys were small in size and probably not large enough to have any meaningful impact on the vote. The purported Russian agents reportedly spent tens of thousands of dollars on these ads, while the Clinton Campaign spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising.

Google declined to provide a comment for this story. The people familiar with its investigation said that the company is looking at a set of ads that cost less than $100,000 and that it is still sorting out whether all of the ads came from trolls or whether some originated from legitimate Russian accounts.

To be sure, the Google probe is still in its early stages, and WaPo suggests that there may still be more questionable ads out there. Google used data provided by Twitter to link some of the individuals operating pro-Russia twitter accounts to purchases of ads on its own platform.

Google discovered the Russian presence on its platforms by siphoning data from another technology company, Twitter, the people familiar with Google's investigation said. Twitter offers outsiders the ability to access a small amount of historical tweets for free, and charges developers for access to the entire Twitter firehose of data stemming back to 2006.


Google downloaded the data from Twitter and was able to link Russian Twitter accounts to other accounts that had used Google’s services to buy ads, the people said. This was done without the explicit cooperation of Twitter, the people said.


Google's probe is still in its early stages, the people said. The number of ads posted and the number of times those ads were clicked on could not be learned. Google is continuing to examine its own records and is also sharing data with Facebook. Twitter and Google have not cooperated with one another in their investigations.

Some of the ads expressed support for Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and the Green party candidate Jill Stein. Others appear to have been aimed at fostering division in United States by promoting anti-immigrant sentiment and racial animosity.

Facebook recently handed over 3,000 ads identified as propaganda intended to disrupt the US election to Congress for review. Twitter has identified 200 "fake" accounts with pro-Russia ties, a group that includes accounts for Russia-funded English-language media organization Russia Today. And now Google has confirmed that the Russians were also active on its platform.

Since Facebook first acknowledged that a Russia-linked troll farm had been concealing its identity and purchasing ads under the auspices of fake US groups, leaks describing the content of the ads showed they targeted swing state voters, and also contained pro- and anti-Muslim and Black Lives Matter messages that were purportedly intended to provoke racist or anti-muslim sentiment, thereby “sowing dischord” in the US election process.

As the hysteria about this ostensible election meddling reaches a fever pitch, executives for Facebook and Twitter have agreed to testify before Congressional investigators on Nov. 1. Google has not said whether it will accept a similar invitation to do so.

We now wait for the deluge of outraged comments from Democratic politicians blasting Google for not doing more to screen their customers.


hedgeless_horseman holgerdanske Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:26 Permalink

 Internet ads?Pfffttt.That isn't even up to Bush League standards.In the Big Leagues, the USA sends in special forces to stage a coup and, "influence," elections...

...this clip raises many questions about American involvement in the ongoing conflict - most of all, was the US involved in the "staging" the Mariupol massacre, and if so it is clear who should be blamed (and isolated).…

In reply to by holgerdanske

hedgeless_horseman E-Knight Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:36 Permalink

 Look what I just "suddenly discovered" in about two seconds of research...…

7) Pass a law that only people eligible to vote for a candidate may contribute to that candidate  So, it is bad for Russia to influence our elections, but ok for Mexico, Israel, and Saudi Arabia?  Stop the hypocrisy.

In reply to by E-Knight

Justin Case holgerdanske Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:02 Permalink

Does stazi merica need to worry that the merican pubic is brain dead and the ads changed the outcome of the election? Don't the incumbents, local corporations, news stations, Soros and other Steins advertise , that could sway the election?They still can't get over the fact that Hillary lost legitimately. Why would mericans want a criminal in power? Get over it and move on. Merica didn't advertise in Ukraine elections, they just did a coup d'état, that cost tax payers over $5 billion. The result speaks for it self. Now that the deep state missed what they were really after, the Russian military port, Sevastopol, a strategic port for Russia, they shit on Ukraine.Hope that those imbeciles in power learned something. I feel sorry for the people there, living in a failed state. Merica needs to get moving in the right direction otherwise they are on the same path.

In reply to by holgerdanske

11b40 Justin Case Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:46 Permalink

America doesn't seem to be able to get much of anything right.In the case of Sevastopol, it was obvious to anyone with a brain that Russia would absolutely NOT give up that warm water port on the Black Sea.  It was just as obvious that they would not abandon Syria & give up their Mediterranean port in Tartus.  Where do these morons who make American policy come from?But, there is still another issue for Russia concerning the Black Sea - the narrow opeing to the Mediterranean controlled by Turkey.So, not only did America screw up with the Ukraine overthrow, we have now sent Turkey right into the arms of the waiting Russians.  Russia now effectively has control of the portions of Ukraine that they want, and outright ownership of Crimea, leaving the rest of a failing state to the West.  It is just icing on the cake to strengthen their alliance with Turkey.  Now, watch how the new axis spreads to include Iran, then Syria.  Also remember that Iran will effectively control Iraq as well.  Pull out a map and see what an alliance of Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq looks like, then consider where China will fit into this equation.  Probably makes little Yomutti crap his pants. 

In reply to by Justin Case

pods onewayticket2 Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:43 Permalink

Oh I bet those Russian internet ads really swung the election.Bwaaaaah, just another strawman to keep the meme going.Israel, through the ADL and AIPAC owns fucking politicians and that's fine, but some mysterious Russian ad campaign is swaying the election?Full on gaslighting now. They don't even pretend. Maybe Burr can get up and say with another couple years they can manufacture enough evidence to mean something.But don't ever look at the media, who it's owned and run by, nor why duallies are allowed in our government.pods

In reply to by onewayticket2

Justin Case onewayticket2 Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:06 Permalink

"Hillary spent a billion dollars.   this is "tens of thousands" of dollars?  peanuts."They are making out that mericans are so stupid and ignorant that advertising is like the bible, and they swallow it like a cheap strumpet on a meat stick. They are making the citizens of merica look like idiots, to paint Russia as evil. Lets not mention the eletoral meddling merica does, esp. in South America.

In reply to by onewayticket2

munch Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:22 Permalink

Hoe come we never see any of these Russian Ads?  Did they atrtack Hil or the Donald? Can't a news organization show us the adv?

Harry Lightning Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:24 Permalink

Wouldn't that be ironic, Google cost Hillary the election after their CEO said they would do everything they could to hlp her !With friends like Google's Eric Schidt, who needs enemies. Or enemas for that matter.

hooligan2009 Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:24 Permalink

so... how many marginal voters in swing states were influenced = that is - how could the ads have targeted such "folk".if spending, albeit stupid spending that destroys shareholder value using a failed ad model (the ads just don't work in attracting purchases of goods and services) can be so fine tuned as to leverage around 100,000 bucks towards 4 million key swing votes across the US, why isn't everyone doing it and every consumer overspending on soap powder, apple watches, japanese cars, junk food and red bull?this reporting is a device to channel government money into lawyers offices - the swamp stench is pervasive here.

Cardinal Fang Mon, 10/09/2017 - 10:35 Permalink

Story is just to keep the Russian interference narrative going.

Every time another news item pushes the meme off the headlines, another sinister plot is exposed.

The only thing being learned is that no one bothers to heed what Twitter, Facebook and google says.

It's all noise.