Russian firm spent $372k on Twitter ads

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Media company suspected of trying to interfere in US presidential election

WASHINGTON: Twitter revealed that nearly 2,000 advertisements were placed on it last year by a Russian media group suspected of trying to interfere with the US presidential election.

A Twitter statement said the social media company shared data with congressional investigators about ads from RT, a Kremlin-backed media outlet.

Twitter said RT spent US$274,000 (S$372,000) last year on Twitter ads that may have been used to try to influence the US election.

The news comes after Facebook acknowledged foreign entities linked to Russia paid to promote political messages on the leading social network, potentially violating US election laws, AFP reported.

A blog post by Twitter said its vice-president for public policy, Mr Colin Crowell, on Thursday met staff from two congressional panels investigating Russian interference in the election.

"This is an ongoing process, and we will continue to collaborate with investigators," the statement said.

Twitter said it examined efforts by foreign agents to interfere with the election after Facebook indicated it found 450 accounts that appeared to have been used for this purpose.

"Of the roughly 450 accounts that Facebook recently shared as a part of their review, we concluded that 22 had corresponding accounts on Twitter," the statement said. "All of those identified accounts had already been or immediately were suspended from Twitter for breaking our rules, most for violating our prohibitions against spam."

Twitter said it removed tweets "attempting to suppress or otherwise interfere with the exercise of voting rights... by circulating intentionally misleading information" during the election campaign.It said some of the ads aimed to deceive voters by telling them they could "text to vote", which has no basis in fact.

Democratic Senator Mark Warner called Twitter's presentation "deeply disappointing" and "inadequate".

He told reporters that the Twitter data was "basically derivative based on accounts that Facebook had identified (and) showed an enormous lack of understanding from the Twitter team of how serious this issue is, the threat it poses to democratic institutions, and begs many more questions".

The RT editor-in-chief yesterday said its purchase of ads on Twitter was standard commercial practice being falsely presented as Russian meddling, RIA news agency reported.

"Twitter has revealed some monstrous information in Congress: we spent money on our ad campaigns.

"Just as all the usual media organisations in the world do," Ms Margarita Simonyan was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.