Diary

Surprise! Twitter Did Something Right!

Not only right, but pro-American.

Twitter has made the policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, effective immediately. This decision was based on the retrospective work we’ve been doing around the 2016 U.S. election and the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government. 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.

Russia Today and Sputnik will still have Twitter accounts, which I don’t like, but at least they won’t be spreading their message via paid advertising. In addition, Twitter is taking the money they’ve earned from Putin’s mouthpieces (around $1.9 million) and donating it 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.”

There’re tons of reasons to be critical of Twitter, but credit where due. Naturally, Russia Today is not happy, spinning it as “Twitter wanted us to spend big!”

Twitter pushed RT for a large ad buy for the 2016 US election, but the channel declined the offer.
But that was back in April 2016, a time when most were unaware of the extent of Putin’s efforts to influence an American election. Sputnik called the decision “regrettable” and implied that Twitter was stonewalling and lacking transparency.

Twitter has so far refused to provide more details on the issue for Sputnik.

Of course, there’s a political angle to the Twitter decision: They’re testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week.

RT said last month that the US Department of Justice had asked it to register as a foreign agent, and Yahoo reported around the same time that the FBI had interviewed a former Sputnik reporter as part of an investigation into whether the company was violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Twitter’s representatives are set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week, along with representatives from Facebook and Google, about how Russia exploited the platform to spread disinformation and propaganda during the 2016 election.

The committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark Warner, said earlier this month that the committee’s first interview with Twitter representatives was “deeply disappointing” and “frankly inadequate.”

It just wouldn’t look good if a Senator asks Twitter people this: “Sirs, how much did you profit from your relationship with these organizations that are now agents of a hostile foreign government?”