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  • Twitter announced on Thursday that it will ban all ads from Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik effective immediately.
  • The policy change comes one week before Twitter representatives are set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about how Russia exploited the platform during the election.
  • The company said it will donate the $1.9 million it is “projected to have earned from RT global advertising since they became an advertiser in 2011.”

Twitter announced on Thursday that it will ban all advertisements from Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik effective immediately.

“Twitter has made the policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, effective immediately,” the company wrote in a statement posted on its blog.

“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.”

RT and Sputnik did not immediately return a request for comment. RT claimed last month that the DOJ has 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 it was violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Twitter announced the policy change one week before its representatives are set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, 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.”

Twitter said on Thursday that RT and Sputnik’s implementation of “state-sponsored Russian efforts to interfere with and disrupt” the election “is not something we want on Twitter.”

Sputnik and RT will still be able to keep their organic accounts, according to the statement.

The announcement could be an effort to preempt legislation introduced last week by Warner and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, which aims to make the process of purchasing political advertisements more transparent — and more difficult for foreign entities.  

Twitter has been criticized for not being as pro-active as Facebook, which said earlier this month that it plans to strengthen its review process for political ads and will begin disclosing which pages purchase them moving forward. And the advertising change does nothing to address how cheap and easy it is to create automated accounts, or bots, that Russia-linked accounts are believed to have programmed to retweet certain keywords, hashtags, and topics en masse during the election.

Still, the social media giant said it will donate the $1.9 million it is “projected to have earned from RT global advertising since they became an advertiser in 2011″ and donate those funds “to support external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections.”

Read the full statement below:

“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.

Early this year, the U.S. intelligence community named RT and Sputnik as implementing state-sponsored Russian efforts to interfere with and disrupt the 2016 Presidential election, which is not something we want on Twitter. This decision is restricted to these two entities based our internal investigation of their behavior as well as their inclusion in the January 2017 DNI report. This decision does not apply to any other advertisers. RT and Sputnik may remain organic users on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.

Twitter has also decided to take the $1.9 million we are projected to have earned from RT global advertising since they became an advertiser in 2011, which includes the $274,100 in 2016 U.S.-based advertising that we highlighted in our September 28 blog post, and donate those funds 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. We will have more details to share on this disbursement soon.”

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