Twitter didn't tell Senate Intel about RT pitch to buy election ads

Twitter didn't tell Senate Intel about RT pitch to buy election ads
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Lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee say Twitter never informed them that it pitched Russian state-owned media to buy ads during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

A spokesperson for top Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerCalifornia Law to rebuild middle class shows need for congressional action Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Top Democrat demands answers from CBP on security of biometric data MORE (Va.), told reporters Thursday that Twitter did not tell the committee during a private briefing last month, or at any other point, that it had made a pitch deck to persuade Russia Today (RT) to advertise on its platform.

RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, revealed the pitch via Twitter on Thursday, writing “Hope @jack won’t forget to tell @congressdotgov how @Twitter pitched @RT_com to spend big $$s on US elex ad campaign.”

Twitter declined to address Simonyan’s claims directly.

"We do not have any comment on our private conversations with any advertiser, even a former advertiser," a Twitter spokesperson told The Hill. 


The remarks from Simonyan come amid heightened scrutiny of Russian government influence in the presidential race, including the roles played by social media ads and Kremlin media outlets.

The news also comes as Twitter’s acting general counsel Sam Edgett prepares to testify before the House and Senate Intelligence committees next week as part of Congress's investigation of Russia's election interference. 

Officials from Google and Facebook, which have both reported 2016 ads sponsored by Russian actors, have also agreed to testify.

Twitter announced Thursday, shortly after Simonyan's remarks, that it would no longer run ads from Russian-funded news outlets RT and Sputnik.

“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,” Twitter said in a blog post Thursday morning. 

The company also announced that it would donate the $1.9 million RT has spent on Twitter advertising since 2011 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.”