RUSSIANS SAY THAT OBAMA AND CLINTON PAID “BILLIONS” TO TWITTER TO RIG THE ELECTION FOR OBAMA AND CLINTON AND AGAINST TRUMP AND SANDERS!
Outlet formerly known as Russia Today seeks to ‘set record straight’ day after Twitter says it will stop taking advertising from RT’s accounts
RT’s office in Moscow. Twitter has announced it will stop taking ads from the news outlet. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP
18.09 EDT 18.10 EDT
RT has released Twitter’s election advertising sales pitch, which shows the social media company vying for millions of dollars from the Russian state-funded news outlet in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.
The publication of the pitch comes the day after Twitter announced it would stop taking advertising from all accounts owned by RT, formerly Russia Today, and Sputnik as US lawmakers continue to investigate the impact of foreign-sponsored “information operations” on the 2016 election.
Twitter said in a blogpost on Thursday that its decision was based on its own investigations and the US intelligence community’s conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government.
RT published Twitter’s slide deck to “set the record straight” and highlight how Twitter had pushed hard to get the Russian news organization to spend millions on the platform to expand the reach of its election coverage through a package of ads including promoted tweets, videos and customized emojis.
It also said that Twitter failed to acknowledge that “virtually all news media organizations spend money on advertising their news coverage”.
The dispute comes at at a time when Facebook, Google and Twitter are under intense scrutiny by the US government for allowing Russia-based groups to buy political ads targeting US voters. Representatives from the three companies have been asked to appear on 1 November for hearings called by the US Senate and House intelligence committees.
In September, Facebook identified a Russian-backed influence operation that spent $100,000 on ads promoting divisive and political messages over a two-year period. Twitter and Google found similar activity on their own platforms.
While the budgets were relatively small in the context of election ad spending, the activity highlighted the lack of due diligence from the platforms’ advertising operations and and the ways they were used to influence the election.
“I’m relatively skeptical of the impact these digital ads had on the election,” said David Karpf, associate professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.
Still, he added: “The people who broke into the Watergate hotel didn’t change the outcome of the election, but it broke down a presidency because it revealed criminal conspiracy to do so.”
This week, both Twitter and Facebook have announced measures to improve transparency around advertising on their platforms.
Twitter announced on Tuesday that it would launch a “transparency center” that allows people to find out how long ads have been running, what wording and images are being used throughout the campaign and information on how those ads are being targeted.
For political ads mentioning a specific candidate, users will be able to discover the identity of the organisation funding the campaign, the total campaign ad spend, the targeting demographics chosen and historical data. When electioneering ads appear on Twitter, they will also be marked out as such with the messaging “promoted by political account”.
On Friday, Facebook announced similar measures, saying it would ask political advertisers to verify their identities and locations. Once verified, those ads will have to include a “paid for by” disclosure.
Facebook will also allow people to view the ads any page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. The tool will be tested in Canada and then rolled out to the US by summer 2018. It will also create a four-year rolling, searchable archive of federal-election related ads.
Karpf described the transparency tools as a “good first step” but added that more steps were needed to regulate digital political advertising.
Siva Vaidhyanathan, a media studies professor from the University of Virginia, said the tools did not address the core problem. The design of the platforms made it “extremely easy for national, anti-democratic and pro-authoritarian groups to hijack these systems toward their own ends” using data-intensive targeted advertising, he said. A crackdown on such targeted advertising could make a difference, he added, but the US government was “incapable of executing harsh regulation on these companies”.
Part of the problem is that it has become increasingly difficult for users to distinguish between advertisements and user-generated content – both appear within people’s news feeds and look similar.
“But from the back end, the people working on the ad side have certain missions and values and goals and the people working on the user engagement side have a different set of values and goals,” Vaidhyanathan said. “What’s remarkable is that no one at either of these companies saw this as a problem.”
“They are like 100ft high babies stumbling around and crushing everything in their path – they don’t know what to do with themselves,” he said. “It’s going to be quite a challenge to work out how to rein them in.”
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After RT published excerpts from Twitter’s “limited offer” to spend millions on US election marketing, the company abruptly banned all advertising from the news network. This makes full disclosure and transparency imperative, so here goes.
TrendsTwitter bans RT ads
READ MORE: Revealed: How Twitter pushed RT to spend big on 2016 US election
On Thursday, the micro-blogging platform announced a policy decision to ban ads from RT and Sputnik, citing alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.
It followed Twitter’s report implying that RT was trying to influence US public opinion, crucially without providing context that virtually all news media organizations spend money on advertising their news coverage.
Off-boarding advertising from all accounts owned by Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik.
We’re donating all projected earnings ($1.9mm) to support external research into the use of Twitter in elections, including use of malicious automation and misinformation. https://t.co/zIxfqqXCZr
— jack (@jack) October 26, 2017
RT was thereby forced to reveal some details of the 2016 negotiations during which Twitter representatives made an exclusive multi-million dollar advertising proposal to spend big during the US presidential election, which was turned down.
Having since been banned, and in order to set the record straight, we are publishing Twitter’s presentation and details of the offer in full.
READ MORE: ‘Twitter ban of RT ads part of coordinated attack on Russian media & freedom of speech’