Google uncovers 'Russia-backed' ads Gmail

File Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Vladivostok Russia 2012

Google, which runs the world's largest online advertising business, had largely evaded public or congressional scrutiny until now.

Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The american group "discovered that tens of thousands of dollars had been spent for content sponsored by Russian interests for the objective of disinformation (...) on YouTube, and on Google, Gmail and its advertising network DoubleClick, writes the daily, citing anonymous sources".

The company had previously said it had found no evidence of this kind of activity.

The ads did not seem to originate from Internet Research, a Russian company that bought ads on Facebook, indicating a possibly broader Russian online-disinformation campaign, the paper reported.

In the height of Russian ad buys during the 2016 election, it wasn't just Facebook that got the attention, but Google too.

Google did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment and declined to offer a statement when contacted by the Washington Post. Some of these ads talk about the Green party candidate Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, while some promoted anti-immigrant sentiment and racial animosity to foster division in the United States, notes the report.

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

Facebook has said the Russian company had placed 3,000 ads on its network at a cost of about $100,000.

The content of the ads that flowed through Google was not clear. Both Twitter Inc and Facebook have said that Russian Federation bought ads and had accounts on their platforms. Twitter also admitted that the Kremlin-linked news site RT spent $274,100 on its platform in 2016. Google reportedly uncovered its problem by searching through Twitter data. RT also has a sizable presence on YouTube.

Google has been called to testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on November 1.

It has been widely reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin, hoping that electing Donald Trump to the US presidency, would allow him to remove sanctions imposed on his administration by the Obama administration, helped the current president win the election. But Silicon Valley companies have received little assistance from the intelligence community, people familiar with the companies' probes said.

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