Twitter gets medieval on RT's ass [The Interface]

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Just days ahead of its scheduled hearings before Congress, Twitter said today that it would no longer
 

The Interface

October 26 · Issue #14 · View online
An evening newsletter about Facebook, social networks, and democracy.

Just days ahead of its scheduled hearings before Congress, Twitter said today that it would no longer allow Russian state news networks RT and Sputnik to buy advertising on the platform. “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,” the company said. “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.”
RT spent $1.9 million on Twitter ads since 2011; Twitter said it would donate that amount to “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.”
On one hand, Twitter is under pressure to act, and this is relatively low-hanging fruit. Banning a single advertiser is easy, but it sends a message to Congress that Twitter is serious about preventing its platform from being abused. (Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar, whose proposed Honest Ads Bill would impose new disclosure requirements for political advertising on platforms like Twitter, tweeted their approval.)
On the other, RT can still tweet all it likes, and it is likely to rack up billions of views across Twitter and other social media platforms. (See this piece from yesterday’s newsletter about how RT manipulates YouTube.) Organic posts, not advertisements, drive the vast majority of the conversation online. Twitter’s malicious bot problem feels far more pressing, in every way, than which tweets RT pays to promote.
Still, the RT ad ban kicked up a stir that put Twitter in direct opposition to the Russian government, which made for good optics. The Russian ambassador’s press secretary suggested Twitter could be banned from ad sales in Russia.
But even if Twitter calls that a win, it may live to regret banning RT ads. In many ways — most ways, even — RT is a broadcaster like any other. The majority of its content looks like ordinary cable news; it strives to depict itself only as an alternative point of view on Western affairs, not unlike many European news outlets. Drawing hard lines between RT’s critiques of US affairs and, say, The Guardian’s, could tie Twitter into knots.
Still, the walls are closing in on RT in the United States. Last month, YouTube dropped the outlet from its “preferred” lineup of international news broadcasters, which earn higher advertising rates. And the Justice Department might force RT to register as a foreign agent, which would create ominous new disclosure requirements.
Against that backdrop, Twitter’s move is a small thing. But when it comes to platform defense, “too little, too late” isn’t much of a strategy.

Revealed: How Twitter pushed RT to spend big on 2016 US election
How Facebook, Google and Twitter 'embeds' helped Trump in 2016
Facebook Steps Up Efforts to Sway Lawmakers
This Russian Campaign Turned Against Trump In The Days After The Election
How Snapchat Has Kept Itself Free of Fake News
Elsewhere
Snapchat cracks down on sexual content in Discover again
Facebook's plan to crush Slack is starting to work.
Facebook’s AI chief says the public doesn’t know how dumb AI really is
Twitter Shows Signs of Life With Renewed User Growth
Twitter Says It Overstated Monthly-User Figures for 3 Years
Takes
Twitter Is Shut Out of the Advertising Big Leagues
Launches
Instagram’s new Superzoom is the best creative tool since the Boomerang
New Features for Groups to Build Communities
Facebook to show cars for sale from auto dealers in Marketplace tab
And finally
Twitter's insane marketing emails
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Carefully curated by Casey Newton with Revue.
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