Update: After having her advertising spend publicly disclosed earlier, RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan has now fired back at Twitter with a snarky article saying she wasn’t aware that paying for advertising is now considered suspicious or harmful in a developed democracy such as the United States. She went on to say that she's very excited to find out how much U.S. media outlets spend in the Russian segment of Twitter...you know, since advertising on social media in foreign countries now seems to be a criminal act.
“This is forcing us to go a step further and come clean that we also spent money on advertising at airports, in taxis, on billboards, on the Internet, on TV and radio. Even CNN ran our commercials,” Simonyan said. “By the way, similar campaigns are conducted by the American media in the Russian segment of Twitter. It’ll be very interesting to find out how much they spend on it, who they target and for what purpose.”
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Earlier today Twitter Vice President for Public Policy Colin Crowell met with staff from Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to discuss how Twitter may have been exploited by sneaky Russian operatives to sway the course of American history by undermining the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
Unfortunately, much like Facebook's disclosure offered up a couple of weeks ago, Twitter apparently underwhelmed Democrats in Congress who continue to relentlessly pursue a "smoking gun" to prove that their perpetual investigations over the past year have been something other than a colossal waste of time.
Of course, upon reviewing Twitter's press release on the topic, we can understand why Senator Warner described Twitter's disclosures today as "deeply disappointing." After spending months investigating, Twitter apparently was only able to find 201 accounts (out of roughly 68 million in the U.S., btw) linked to "potentially Russian related" users. Moreover, and undoubtedly adding to Warner's frustration, Twitter further noted that not a single one of the 201 accounts "were registered as advertisers on Twitter."
Of the roughly 450 accounts that Facebook recently shared as a part of their review, we concluded that 22 had corresponding accounts on Twitter. All of those identified accounts had already been or immediately were suspended from Twitter for breaking our rules, most for violating our prohibitions against spam.
In addition, from those accounts we found an additional 179 related or linked accounts, and took action on the ones we found in violation of our rules. Neither the original accounts shared by Facebook, nor the additional related accounts we identified, were registered as advertisers on Twitter. However, we continue to investigate these issues, and will take action on anything that violates our Terms of Service.
Just a thought here Mr. Warner, but perhaps Twitter's disclosures were disappointing not because they are lazy or are trying to conceal the facts...maybe, just maybe, the evidence you covet simply doesn't exist...just a thought.
In any event, in the absence of any other useful disclosures, Twitter decided to inform Congress that they received $274,100 in advertising revenue from media outlet 'Russia Today' throughout 2016. Of course, it's unclear what that disclosure is intended to imply since even Twitter says the ads were directed at "followers of mainstream media and primarily promoted RT Tweets regarding news stories"...which hardly seems like an attempt to stage a coup...but at least it's something?
The US intelligence community released a report in January, 2017, highlighting the role that RT (Russia Today), which has strong links to the Russian government, allegedly played in seeking to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and undermine trust in American democracy. RT has accounts on Twitter and tweets regularly. The open nature of the Twitter platform means this activity was public.
Today we proactively shared with committee staff a round-up of ads that three RT accounts (@RT_com, @RT_America, and @ActualidadRT) targeted to the U.S. market in 2016. As of our meetings today we believe this is the complete list from these three accounts within that time frame, but we are continuing to review our internal data and will report back to the committees as we have more to share.
Based on our findings thus far, RT spent $274,100 in U.S. ads in 2016. In that year, the @RT_com, @RT_America, and @ActualidadRT accounts promoted 1,823 Tweets that definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market. These campaigns were directed at followers of mainstream media and primarily promoted RT Tweets regarding news stories.
That said, if Twitter is suddenly interested in fully disclosing the ad revenue they collected from various media outlets then perhaps they can let us all know how much money the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSBC, etc. spent promoting their news stories on Twitter and what percentage of those stories were pro-Hillary and/or anti-Trump...wouldn't that disclosure be just as relevant?