A day after certain members of the Senate Intelligence committee expressed their profound disappointment with Facebook, Twitter and Google for appearing to blow off lawmakers’ concerns about a “sophisticated” Russia-backed propaganda campaign purportedly being carried out on their platforms, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is hitting back, warning that Russia has “a surprise” response planned if US lawmakers overtly ban Russia Today and Sputnik from running advertisements on twitter and other US social media platforms.
According to Interfax and Sputnik, Zakharova said Russia would be forced to respond to the ban, which she said constituted “intimidation and blackmail.”
She also singled out Twitter, which was the first – and so far, the only – to prohibit Russia Today from running ads, criticizing the company for kowtowing to pressure from lawmakers and US intelligence agencies.
“By imposing this ban, Twitter demonstrates its commercial insolvency and absolute dependence on the will of the US security establishment, which directly controls the decision-making process in this company, as we see it at the moment,” Zakharova said.
Additionally, the ban would only serve to further strain already tenuous relations between the US and Moscow.
“Of course, Washington’s policy for further degradation of US-Russian relations is regrettable. This is an absolutely short-sighted policy, fraught with negative consequences, including for the United States itself,” Zakharova said.
Twitter banned all ads from RT and Sputnik last month under pressure from lawmakers.
While the Sputnik news agency has stated in its press-release that it had never paid for promotion on Twitter, RT has responded with numbers — the broadcaster’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, has revealed the amount of money spent on Twitter ads during the US election race; the number totals $275,000, in comparison to the presidential nominees who spent about $1 billion each.
Simonyan also famously published the “full” sales pitch it received from Twitter ahead of the election last year. RT said it turned down the “multi-million dollar advertising proposal.” On Twitter, advertising largely consists of the platform promoting a user’s tweets in exchange for money.
Earlier today, Buzzfeed published emails from a Twitter ad executive to RT pitching a $3 million advertisisng campaign, which the company said would amplify RT’s voice seven-fold.
According to the Russian diplomat, the existing legislation in Russia allows, if necessary, to declare the foreign media outlets operating in the country as ‘”foreign agents” or “undesirable organizations.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously vowed to give a mirror-like response if the US decides to further restrict activities of Russian media outlets.