Twitter has moved to ban Russian media sites Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik from advertising on its platform after determining that both Kremlin-backed news outlets attempted to interfere with and disrupt the 2016 US presidential election.
“This decision was based on the retrospective work we’ve been doing around the 2016 US election and the US intelligence community’s conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government,” the company said.
“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,” it added.
Twitter said both accounts will remain active as organic users. The microblogging platform will also donate the estimated $1.9 million it’s earned from RT global advertising since 2011, including the $274,100 from the 2016 election, to “support external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections, including use of malicious automation and misinformation, with an initial focus on elections and automation.”
RT, meanwhile, responded to the sudden ban, saying Twitter tried to court the outlet with “a large-sum advertising proposal,” and exclusive deals related to the election, including a customized emoji-hashtag, customized analytics, and a dedicated team at Twitter to help with content curation and strategy.
The Russian news network said it declined the offer but did not release financial details from the proposal. Furthermore, RT asserts that a majority of its ad spend during the 2016 election was spent on general promotion of RT accounts and new audience acquisition, with “only a fraction of the promoted content” related to US election coverage.
Both Twitter and Facebook have faced intense scrutiny for enabling the spread of extremist content and “fake news” during the 2016 election. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube have pledged to work on curbing terrorist and extremist content online through the creation of a shared database of digital fingerprints, extremist material, and content removed from their services in the hope of making it more difficult to share.
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