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27 October 2017, 12:41 | Katrina Lee
Twitter just banned Russia Today and Sputnik ads over election meddling
Twitter (TWTR) said Thursday it is banning advertisements on its platform from two Russian media firms, Russia Today and Sputnik, citing an internal investigation and findings by US intelligence authorities that the companies sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
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".
"We did not come to this decision lightly, and are taking this step now as part of our ongoing commitment to help protect the integrity of the user experience on Twitter", Twitter said.
Twitter calculated that it received approximately $1.9 million from global advertising since 2011, including $274,100 in marketing expenditures in 2016.
Twitter and Russia Today negotiated a media strategy that, according to the post, could have included giving the outlet early access to Twitter features, a "customized emoji-hashtag that would help RT stand out with special election coverage" and access to a "dedicated team of Twitter experts".
Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the media after sessions of the Council of Heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Sochi, Russia October 11, 2017.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred to RT and Sputnik specifically in a report in January as organizations that "contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and global audiences".
Last month Twittertold lawmakers it found some 200 accounts linked to the same Russian groups that bought $100,000 worth of ads on Facebook to sow political unrest and manipulate USA voters during the presidential election. Russia Today and Sputnik will be allowed to retain their Twitter accounts.
Twitter's presentation on Capitol Hill drew sharp criticism from a key senator who accused the social media company of not being aggressive enough in probing Russian interference in the election.
The Associated Press reports that this move comes after Twitter reported third-quarter losses of $21 million or at 3 cents per share.
Sputnik, a news agency, said on its website that Twitter's move was regrettable, "especially now that Russian Federation had vowed retaliatory measures against the USA media".
In a reaction to this decision, the editor-in-chief of RT Margarita Simonian told the Russian agency Ria Novosti: "I must admit that I didn't think Twitter was handled by the u.s. secret service, it seemed to me that to say that was the conspiracy theory, but Twitter just accept him".
Some analysts said transparency, rather than a ban, would have been a better approach.
We're donating all projected earnings ($1.9mm) to support external research into the use of Twitter in elections, including use of malicious automation and misinformation. Gidari is now privacy director at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.
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