United Kingdom lawmakers seek Facebook data on Russia-linked Brexit ads

"This decision was based on the retrospective work we've been doing around the 2016 USA election and the USA intelligence community's conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government", Twitter said in a blog post Thursday morning.

"We do not take this decision lightly, and apply it in the context of our commitment to guarantee to the users of Twitter the integrity of the service", adds the same source.

Twitter declined to comment on any discussions with advertisers.

Senators introduced a bipartisan bill last week that would require the companies to disclose who is paying for political ads that appear on their online platforms.

RT has thrived on social media, particularly YouTube and Facebook.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses the media after sessions of the Council of Heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Sochi, Russia October 11, 2017.

Sputnik and Russia Today, also known as RT, won't lose their ability to post to Twitter - meaning they can continue using the service to circulate articles, videos and opinion pieces.

In April, Reuters reported that RT and Sputnik were part of a plan by Russian President Vladimir Putin to swing the USA presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters' faith in the American electoral system, according to three current and four former US officials. It noted that RT spent $274,100 on Twitter ads in 2016 to promote its tweets regarding news stories. A former Twitter employee said the sales pitch to RT is similar to what the company uses to lure advertisers to Twitter, which has struggled to turn a profit.

Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, testified earlier this month before Congress as part of the USA investigations of Moscow for purported electoral interference. Both say they are legitimate news-gathering organizations, and both fired back at Twitter on Thursday.

RT immediately hit back, saying Twitter had "pushed RT to spend big on the 2016 U.S. election" and criticizing the company for making its investment numbers public.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state media that the move was a violation of worldwide laws that "guarantee the freedom of speech". Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows anonymous accounts and automated accounts, or bots, making the service more hard to police. She called the move a "result of pressure from some of the US establishment and security services". The change means they can not put money behind any tweets in an effort to promote them to a certain audience.

  • Tracy Klein