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Russia Today and Sputnik banned from advertising on Twitter over US election ‘interference’ claims

By Freddy Mayhew

Twitter has today announced that it will stop accepting advertising from all accounts owned by Kremlin-backed Russian news outlets Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, effective immediately.

The online platform said it had based its decision to “off-board advertising” for the two titles on the US intelligence community’s conclusion that they had “attempted to interfere with the [2016 US presidential] election on behalf of the Russian government”.

Said Twitter: “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.

“Early this year, the US intelligence community named RT and Sputnik as implementing state-sponsored Russian efforts to interfere with and disrupt the 2016 Presidential election, which is not something we want on Twitter.”

RT and Sputnik have not been banned from the platform entirely and can continue to remain “organic users” in accordance with its rules.

Both titles have UK accounts, which are included in the advertising ban. Russia Today has tweeted that all seven of its accounts are affected. Sputnik is believed to have 16 separate accounts on Twitter.

Twitter has said it will donate the $1.9m it was projected to have earned from RT global advertising since the publication joined in 2011.

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It said the funding will go to “support 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”.

Both RT and Sputnik have tweeted Twitter’s decision as breaking news.

In a statement online, RT has hit back at Twitter, claiming it had been “pushed” to “spend big” on advertising with the platform to promote its coverage of the US election, but eventually declined.

It said it had “never violated any rules while advertising on Twitter”, never used bots or other “compromised tools”, had “never spread any sort of deliberate misinformation and had been a “reliable partner and publisher” on social media.

It added:“RT has never been involved in any illegal activity online and… it never pursued an agenda of influencing the US election through any platforms, including Twitter.”

A spokesperson for Sputnik said: “Sputnik has never used paid for promotion on Twitter.  Sputnik news channels are followed by people who are tired of the mainstream and who are looking for an alternative perspective on the news.”

Picture: Twitter/PA Wire

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