Google Conducting Broad Internal Investigation on Russian Influence -- Update
By Jack Nicas and Robert McMillan
Google is conducting a broad internal investigation to determine whether Russian-linked entities used its ads or services to try to manipulate voters ahead of the U.S. election, according to a person familiar with the matter, a move that comes after Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. said Russian actors used their sites.
Google, part of Alphabet Inc., is also talking with congressional officials who are investigating Russian efforts to influence the election, and plans to share its findings with them once completed, this person said.
Congressional leaders have scrutinized Facebook and Twitter this month for Russian activity on their sites -- and criticized the tech companies for their lack of disclosure of such information.
Google, pending a potential meeting with lawmakers, has said little. The company earlier this month said that it found no evidence that it sold election-related ads to Russian actors. But it didn't say how deeply it was investigating the issue, or whether there was other types of Russian interference on its platform.
It also hasn't said whether it will accept an invitation this week from the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify publicly on Nov. 1 about Russian interference on their platforms. The committee also invited Facebook and Twitter to that hearing. Facebook and Twitter haven't said if they have accepted the invitation.
It is unclear what sort of activity, if any, happened on Google's sites. But Google runs the world's largest advertising business and largest online-video site, YouTube, making it an obvious place for investigators to look.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian influence on the election, said that lawmakers want to speak to Google "given their dominant force online that has an advertising component."
Google sells ads above its search results, before YouTube videos and on third-party websites and apps. Google even offers a specific ad tool for political campaigns that it says will help advertisers "win the moments that win elections."