In an effort to stem a building tide of criticism against its "loose advertising standards" Twitter has chosen to break out the scythe and completely eliminate all ad buys made by two Russian-based communications outlets, Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik. The move may energize many Americans who have complained about alleged meddling by the Russian press, but many others are decrying the move as painting with far too broad a brush.
According to Twitter, the move was made to punish RT and Sputnik for "attempting to interfere" with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In a statement, Twitter said, "This decision was based on the retrospective work we've been doing around the 2016 U.S. election and the U.S. intelligence comm.unity's conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government . . . "
The social network said it would continue to "allow" RT and Sputnik to operate accounts and post content on Twitter, but neither company will be allowed to purchase ads.
Twitter added that it planned to donate the nearly $2 million in ad revenue related to RT to a watchdog group investigating Twitter, public relations, social engagement, and election results.
Twitter claims the decision was based not on public pressure but on its own "internal investigation" as well as RT and Sputnik’s names coming up in a U.S. intelligence report.
But it’s hard to believe the decision had as much to do with any internal investigation as it did with public pressure, some of it coming from the U.S. government. Twitter recently joined Facebook and Google on Capitol Hill to answer for the "role" these networks played in the much-reported allegations of meddling.
Coming out of these hearings, coupled with Twitter’s inability to do much to take action against allegations of abusive and dangerous posting by its users, many are saying this overt ban of the two Russian companies is one way Twitter is trying to be seen "taking action."
RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan did not take the ban without comment, taking to Twitter to both defend the publication and take aim at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, "(RT) is an exemplary @Twitter partner . . . Hope @jack won't forget to tell @congressdotgov how @Twitter pitched @RT_com to spend big $$ on US elex ad campaign."
Twitter’s response to these allegations seems to lend credibility to Simonyan’s complaint. When confronted with the social network’s ad recruiting efforts relative to RT, Twitter said, "We do not have any comment on our private conversations with any advertiser, even a former advertiser."
So, whatever RT and Sputnik allegedly did is, apparently, bad enough for a unilateral ban — but they’re not saying what that might be. That stance seems to ask more questions than it answers.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent PR Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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