Report: Russian operatives spent tens of thousands on Google ads during 2016 election

WASHINGTON, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Google has discovered that Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on YouTube, Gmail, Google search and other products, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook Inc, which may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, the paper reported. Google runs the world's largest online advertising business and YouTube is the world's largest online video site.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the story.

Google has downplayed the possibility of Russian influence on its platforms, but launched a probe into the matter, according to the Post. Both Twitter Inc and Facebook have said that Russia bought ads and had accounts on their platforms.

SEE ALSO: 'Trump dossier' on Russia links now part of special counsel's probe

A source who was briefed on Google's review but who did not work for the internet and search group said Google had uncovered less than $100,000 in ad spending that had potentially been linked to Russian actors.

Facebook, on the other hand, unearthed $100,000 in spending from just one Russia-affiliated entity, the Internet Research Agency, the source said.

Meanwhile, Congress has started multiple investigations into the Russian interference in the 2016 election, with lawmakers on both political sides saying Russia intended to sow discord in the United States, spread propaganda and sway the election to elect President Donald Trump.

Google officials are expected to testify publicly before both the House and Senate intelligence committees on Nov. 1 alongside Facebook and Twitter about Russian attempts to use their platforms to influence the election. (Reporting by Dustin Volz; Additional reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jeffrey Benkoe)

RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

10 PHOTOS
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
See Gallery
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Sergey Kislyak

Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.

James Comey

Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.