Twitter cuts ads from Russia Today and Sputnik-owned accounts

An example of what a future political ad may look like

Both publications had recently been fingered as helping in Russian efforts to influence last November's USA presidential election by strategically purchasing and running political ads on Twitter.

USA media reports also indicate Russians purchased similar ads on Google.

Twitter is banning advertising from all accounts owned by Russia Today and Sputnik effective immediately, after US investigators concluded the Russian media companies attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter said on Thursday that it had chose to ban ads from RT and Sputnik, a Kremlin-backed news agency, based on its own internal investigation and on the USA intelligence community's assertion that the outlets tried to interfere in the election.

Twitter in early September said it had suspended about 200 Russia-linked accounts and found almost 2,000 ads placed by RT's television group in its investigation of Russia's alleged efforts to influence last year's election.

"Retaliatory measures will naturally follow". "RT and Sputnik may remain organic users on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules".

The decision is effective immediately, Twitter said.

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RT and Sputnik are both news organizations that are funded by Russia's government, both of which being decried as propaganda outfits. It is not clear what other correspondence took place between RT and Twitter over the issue.

The company said it's taking the $1.9 million it estimated it earned from RT global advertising since it joined as an advertiser in 2011 and donating it to funds that support external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections. "We will have more details to share on this disbursement soon", it said.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state media that the move was a violation of worldwide laws that "guarantee the freedom of speech".

"And it would be much better to invest in teaching audiences in using information properly, to check information and be skeptical about sources of information".

Sputnik news agency said in a press release it had never used any paid promotion on Twitter.

Padraig Reidy, a former editor at Index on Censorship, a UK-based free speech group, said greater transparency would be a better approach.

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