Twitter has banned ads from all accounts owned by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik following the social media giant’s probe into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election.
“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,” explained Twitter, in a blog post Thursday. “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.”
Last month, Twitter confirmed that state-owned RT spent $274,100 on U.S. ads on its platform during 2016.
In its blog post Thursday, Twitter said that it will be using RT’s ad spending (projected to be $1.9 million since 2011) for research around civic engagement and electoral misinformation.
RT slammed Twitter’s move. Allegations of election interference are “absolutely groundless and greatly-misleading,” according to Kirill Karnovich-Valua, RT’s Deputy Editor-in-Chief, in an article posted to RT’s website Thursday.
Karnovich-Valua says that, in 2016 negotiations, Twitter representatives pitched “a large-sum advertising proposal” to RT. The proposal, which was eventually declined by RT, involved promoting RT’s U.S. election coverage on Twitter, he added.
“RT has never been involved in any illegal activity online,” Karnovich-Valua wrote. “It never pursued an agenda of influencing the US election through any platforms, including Twitter.”
A Twitter spokeswoman told Fox News that the San Francisco-based firm does not have any comment on private conversations with advertisers, including former advertisers.
Sputnik’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan described Twitter’s decision as “regrettable” on Thursday. Simonyan is also the Editor-in-Chief of RT.
“Sputnik has never used paid for promotion on Twitter,” the news outlet added, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “Sputnik news channels are followed by people who are tired of the mainstream and who are looking for an alternative perspective on the news.”
Despite the advertising ban, RT and Sputnik, which are both state-owned, can remain “organic users” on Twitter.
On Wednesday, Twitter announced a plan to increase ad transparency on its platform, including political and issue-based ads.
Last month Facebook said that it had uncovered $100,000 in fake ad spending tied to Russian operatives during the 2016 U.S. election cycle.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers