Russian broadcaster tried to take over anti-Trump, anti-Clinton Twitter accounts: report

Russian broadcaster tried to take over anti-Trump, anti-Clinton Twitter accounts: report
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RT, the Russian government-backed broadcaster, tried to take over two Twitter handles to help promote its coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign, Foreign Policy reported on Thursday.

The media outlet reportedly told Twitter's advertising department last year that it wanted to use the accounts — @NotHillary and @NotTrump — to boost its election coverage. Twitter ultimately rejected the request.

Twitter has a policy that allows companies to take over accounts that have remained inactive for a certain amount of time. But it reportedly denied RT's request because it violated its advertising policies.

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The @NotHillary account has not tweeted since May 2014, and the @NotTrump account last tweeted in April 2011, meaning neither actively posted during the 2016 race. 

RT told Foreign Policy that its effort to take over the Twitter handles was part of an abandoned project to engage with online opponents of then-candidates Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats try to turn now into November The Memo: Unhappy voters could deliver political shocks beyond Trump On The Trail: Trump, coronavirus fuel unprecedented voter enthusiasm MORE.

“Trump and Clinton both were entering the election with some of the highest ‘unfavorable’ ratings for presumptive nominees,” RT’s head of communications, Anna Belkina, told Foreign Policy in an email.

“RT wanted to explore this subject deeper by engaging into a conversation with the people who were neither in favor of Clinton, nor in favor of Trump, which is the opposite of ‘expressing a clear preference’ for either candidate," she added. "As part of this idea, we were considering ways how to adapt it to Twitter, however, we discontinued the concept and did not pursue handle ownership.”

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report released in January that the Russian government ran an influence and hacking campaign that sought to sway the 2016 election in Trump's favor and politically damage Clinton.

In that report, RT is referred to as "the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet." It alleges that RT ultimately sought to expose its audience to "Kremlin messaging," and that the outlet was part of Russian "influence efforts to denigrate Secretary Clinton."