WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Google has discovered Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its YouTube, Gmail and Google Search products in an effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a person briefed on the company’s probe told Reuters on Monday.
The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook Inc (FB.O), but may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, according to the source, who was not authorized to discuss details of the confidential investigation by Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google.
Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) said separately on Monday that it was looking at whether Russians bought U.S. election ads on its Bing search engine or other Microsoft-owned products and platforms. A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment further.
The revelation about Google is likely to fuel further scrutiny of the role that Silicon Valley technology giants may have unwittingly played during last year’s election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow’s goal was to help elect Donald Trump.
Google did not deny the story, and in a statement pointed to its existing ad policies that limit political ad targeting and prohibit targeting based on race or 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,” a Google spokeswoman said on Monday.