Twitter Bans Two Kremlin-Backed News Outlets From Advertising

Saul Bowman
October 27, 2017

"This decision was based on the retrospective work we've been doing around the 2016 USA election and the USA intelligence community's conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government", the company said in a blog post.

The company also said it will take the almost $2 million it has earned on ads from the Russian news agencies since 2011 and donate it to support "external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections".

The company, in a statement on its blog, said it took the step as part of its "ongoing commitment to help protect the integrity of the user experience on Twitter".

The ad restriction applies only to RT, an English-language TV broadcaster that receives financial support from the Russian government, and Sputnik, a news agency and online news outlet.

Other changes to Twitter's advertisement policies will aim to place politically-focused ads under more scrutiny.

"It is particularly regrettable that now USA media operating in Russia will feel the tender response of the Russian authorities".

January's USA intelligence report from the CIA, FBI and NSA included a heavy focus on the alleged role of the two Russian media outlets during the election campaign.

Beyond politics, Twitter's transparency center will show all ads that are now running on the platform, how long they've been running, who created them, and which ones are targeted to users.

USA authorities say both act as "a platform for Kremlin messaging".

RT also alleged that Twitter had encouraged it to buy advertising in order to expand its reach in the US.

According to Twitter, Russia Today spent $274,100 in USA -based advertising in 2016. At the time, Twitter said it disabled 22 accounts after reviewing information from Facebook showing connections to 450 bogus accounts on that company's social network.

Twitter declined to elaborate on particular details after The Daily Caller News Foundation specifically asked why it made the announcement on the same day it released its third quarter results, which showed that it miscalculated user growth for years.

"Retaliatory measures, naturally, will follow", ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to the RIA news agency. She called the move a "result of pressure from some of the US establishment and security services".

Some analysts said transparency, rather than a ban, would have been a better approach.

Twitter's move comes as social media platforms face increased scrutiny for their failure to stop bots, foreign governments and anonymous ads from spreading misinformation and propaganda.

"Banning any particular person, group or country is just bad policy - in other parts of the world, platforms will come to be viewed as a tool of USA or other foreign policy and it will give authoritarian regimes more excuses to ban speech", Albert Gidari, who as a lawyer has represented tech companies, said in an email.

A USA lawmaker, Representative Adam Schiff, applauded Twitter's move.

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