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Russia Slams Twitter’s ‘McCarthyist Witch Hunt’

Posted: October 28, 2017 at 1:42 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Russian news services Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik are fighting back against Twitter over its advertising ban, calling the decision a ‘McCarthyist witch hunt’ and claiming that they have broken no rules.

Yesterday, Twitter announced that it would no longer accept advertising from accounts owned by RT and Sputnik, after US intelligence reports concluded that the two government-backed news outlets were part of an effort to disrupt last year’s presidential election.

It has also pledged to donate the $1.9 million of advertising it’s made from RT since 2011 to support external research into how Twitter’s used in civic engagement and elections, including the use of malicious bots and misinformation.

However, RT, Sputnik and the Russian government aren’t taking the move lying down, and have reacted furiously to the news.

RT claims that its staff met with senior marketing and news partnership managers from Twitter in April 2016 to thrash out a media strategy ahead of the elections. Twitter, it says, offered a ‘large-sum’ advertising proposal based on promoting RT’s US election coverage on the site – a proposal that was eventually declined by RT.

“The main idea pitched by Twitter to RT was ‘to take a stand’. The more money RT spent, the bigger the reach to American voters that Twitter would provide,” writes the paper’s deputy editor in chief Kirill Karnovich-Valua in an editorial.

“At the meeting, the RT team was shown an in-depth presentation giving background into Twitter’s advantages as a platform of choice for the election.”

Sweeteners offered by Twitter, it claims, included closed beta testing of new tools and products; a customized emoji-hashtag that would help RT stand out with special election coverage; customized analytics and research solutions; and a dedicated team of Twitter experts to help with content curation and media strategy.

The offer was turned down, says RT, because the price was too high, and because RT wasn’t convinced it would get enough out of the deal.

And it claims that its election coverage was fair and even-handed, covering anti-Trump stories as well as criticizing Hillary Clinton.

Sputnik, meanwhile, has called the ban a ‘McCarthyist witch hunt’ and described the accusations of electoral interference as a ‘pretext’. It quotes Russian senator Igor Chernyshenko describing the move as censorship and a manifestation of weakness.

The Russian foreign ministry has also issued a statement, implying some sort of retaliation.

“We view this as a further aggressive step aimed at blocking the activities of the Russian TV channel Russia Today, and the result of pressure from American intelligence. A response will naturally follow,” it reads.

“It is clear that the obstruction of the Russian media, including through the arsenal of intelligence services, shows a flagrant violation by the United States of America of both international and domestic legislation guaranteeing freedom of expression.”

The row comes as Twitter, Facebook and Google prepare to testify next week before public hearings of the Senate and House intelligence committees on alleged Russian interference in the election.

All three have confirmed that ads were placed that appeared to be attempting to influence the vote – and Twitter has conceded that bots had a strong effect in promoting fake news stories that helped the Trump cause. By banning the RT and Sputnik ads, it is presumably hoping it will be given an easier ride.





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