The Washington Post is reporting that Google has for the first time uncovered evidence that Russian operatives used the Internet giant's platforms in an effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
"Russian agents" spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertisements on YouTube, Gmail, Google search, and other products in an attempt to spread disinformation, the newspaper reported on October 9, citing anonymous sources it said were familiar with the company's investigation.
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. Both Facebook and the other social-media giant, Twitter, have said that Russian entities bought ads and had accounts on their platforms.
Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., runs the world's largest online advertising business and YouTube is the world's largest online video site.
In a statement, Google said it has a "set of strict ads policies, including limits on political ads targeting, and prohibitions on targeting based on race and 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," the statement continued.
The U.S. Congress has opened multiple investigations to determine the level of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Google representatives are due to testify publicly before both the House and Senate intelligence committees on November 1, along with Facebook and Twitter, about alleged Russian attempts to use their platforms to influence the election.
Facebook has said it recently shared some 3,000 Russian-bought ads with congressional investigators that were purchased by operatives associated with Internet Research, which media reports have described as a "troll farm" with links to the Russian state.
With reporting by Reuters