Twitter Bans Ads From Russia Today and Sputnik

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Twitter said that RT and Sputnik can stay on the platfom as regular accounts, provided they follow its rules.

Twitter on Thursday morning announced that it will ban advertising from accounts associated with Kremlin-supported news organizations Russia Today and Sputnik. 

The social media network announced the move on its public policy blog, saying that the decision was based on its investigation into the 2016 presidential election and the U.S. intelligence community's findings that the sites were part of Russia's attempts to interfere in the results.  

Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, is set to testify for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about how Russia used it platform during the election.

The ban, which is effective immediately, applies only to those two organizations. Twitter said that RT and Sputnik can remain users on the platform as long as they adhere to Twitter's rules. 

"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," the blog post reads. 

Twitter also said that it would donate the $1.9 million it is projected to have earned from RT advertising since 2011 to support external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections. That $1.9 million includes the $274,000 in U.S. advertising last year that Twitter first disclosed in late September. 

RT's editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, responded to the ban by tweeting that Twitter had pitched RT to spend on a U.S. election ad campaign. She followed up the statement by tweeting a slide that appeared to be from a Twitter presentation. RT also published a rebuttal titled, "Revealed: How Twitter pushed RT to spend big on 2016 US election." THR has reached out to Twitter for comment.

On Friday, Russian authorities reacted angrily to Twitter's decision, promising retaliation. What specific steps will be taken is not yet clear but the rhetoric is harsh.

"We will take steps rather than discuss steps," deputy communications minister Alexei Volin was quoted as saying by TASS news agency. "We will certainly respond to any attempts of discrimination against Russian companies."

Twitter's decision can have "legal consequences" in Russia, added German Klimenko, Vladimir Putin's aide in charge of internet issues.

"We view this as another aggressive step aimed at blocking of operations of Russian television network RT as a result of pressure from some part of the U.S. establishment and secret services," Maria Zakharova, the foreign ministry's spokeswoman, was quoted as saying by RT.

"There will certainly be a response," she added.

On Wednesday, Russia's embassy in the U.S. issued a statement, calling on American authorities not to create obstacles for Russian media. Meanwhile, according to Russian media reports, local authorities are preparing retaliation measures for "persecution" of RT and Sputnik. CNN, Radio Liberty and Voice of America are reportedly on the list of "potentially undesirable media," but it isn't yet clear what steps would be taken against them. 

Last week, Twitter announced plans for a "transparency center" that would provide more public information about political ads on its platform. 

Vladimir Kozlov contributed to this report.