This is getting weird. After Twitter banned advertising from Russian news outlets RT and Sputnik yesterday over meddling in the 2016 election, RT is hitting back. The state-backed outlet has released what it says is an exclusive election-related advertising proposal it received from Twitter last year—one that essentially touted Twitter’s ability to target political users. The unverified proposal, supposedly valued at north of $3 million, includes several examples of politically charged tweets, including one in which a Twitter user asked people if they would rather vote for a potato than Hillary Clinton.
RT has also called Twitter’s ban a “coordinated attack on Russian media and freedom of speech.”
The implication, of course, is that Twitter acted hypocritically by banning RT, but an important caveat here is that RT is not a typical news organization. While it positions itself as a government-funded outlet in the model of the BBC, it’s long been seen as a thinly veiled engine for Moscow to spread propaganda in the West. In the wake of the 2016 election, the FBI launched an investigation into both RT and Sputnik in September, following accusations that they were part of a plot to help swing the contest for Donald Trump.
Moreover, agressive sales pitches are pretty routine at social media companies, and RT is likely being selective in what it’s making public–so either way, we’re not seeing the whole picture.
A Twitter spokesperson gave me the following statement: “We do not have any comment on our private conversations with any advertiser, even a former advertiser.”