Twitter bans two Russian media outlets from advertising on its platform

Twitter plans to open ad data to users
Another View: Defend US with more digital transparency

27 October, 2017

Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, which have spent a combined $1.9m (£1.4m) on Twitter adverts, were blacklisted after an internal investigation into the two, following United States intelligence reports saying they were part of a Russian effort to disrupt last year's vote.

"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.

We're donating all projected earnings ($1.9 mm) to support external research into the use of Twitter in elections, including use of malicious automation and misinformation. RT said that it even published a marketing proposal Twitter had sent the company past year in which it tried to sell RT on its services, including Twitter's ability to help RT "deliver an unbiased point of view of the US elections with an edge".

The social media company is relinquishing its business relationship with the two Russian firms because of an "internal investigation of their behavior as well as their inclusion in the January 2017 DNI [Director of National Intelligence] report".

The ban will not apply to any other advertisers, Twitter said.

Despite the advertising ban, RT and Sputnik, which are both state-owned, can remain "organic users" on Twitter.

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This breaking news story is being updated as more information emerges - please refresh the page for the most recent version. Twitter has said that accounts from RT and Sputnik may continue to tweet but now may not advertise. The article goes on to chronicle what it describes as Twitter's attempts to encourage Russia Today to commit to a major advertising initiative to help increase its USA audience during the 2016 election. For its minor announcement-as well as news that its user growth and sales numbers are up and that it might turn a profit for the first time as a public company-Twitter's stock rallied on Thursday, surging 19.4 percent during midday trading.

In Septemeber and early October, Facebook said 470 fake accounts, likely from Russian Federation, bought $100K in ads focused on hot topic issues during the 2016 US presidential election.

Officials from Google and Facebook, which have both reported 2016 ads sponsored by Russian actors, have also agreed to testify.

In a blog post RT accused Twitter of publishing a report that included confidential data on RT ad campaigns.

The move comes after Twitter was roundly criticized for its handling of Russian ads, and its involvement in the Kremlin's election-meddling efforts by taking the ad money and for not reporting or tackling the paid-for pro-Russian propaganda on its platform.

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