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    Twitter’s Ban on RT, Sputnik Ads: Blatant Example of US Exploiting Internet

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    Twitter's decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned by RT and Sputnik is another example of how the United States uses the Internet as a tool to achieve its goals, experts told Sputnik, calling on Russia to address this attack on freedom of speech.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – On Thursday, Twitter announced that it had decided to ban advertising from all accounts owned by RT and Sputnik, effective immediately, on the basis of its internal investigation carried out following the US intelligence community’s conclusion that both media outlets attempted to interfere the 2016 US presidential election. Both RT and Sputnik remain users on Twitter as the ban concerns advertising only.

    Sputnik news agency said in a press release that it had never used paid promotion on Twitter, pointing out that its subscribers are those who are looking for an alternative view on world events.

    Commenting on the news, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Twitter's decision resulted from pressure of the US security services. The diplomat called Twitter's move yet another aggressive step aimed at blocking actions of Russian media, and warned that Moscow's retaliatory measures would follow. Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Sputnik and the RT broadcaster, said that she regretted Twitter's ban in light of Russia’s possible measures against US media.

    Twitter's Policy Similar to Censorship

    "The decision of Twitter to ban all accounts belonging to RT and Sputnik from its advertising service is another blatant example of how the internet has effectively become a tool of extortion and blackmail for the US government … I demand, that the Russian government takes appropriate actions against this newest attack on freedom of speech and press," Marcel Sardo, an expert in digital media and social media, told Sputnik.

    He pointed out that there is no doubt that the US government was behind the Twitter's decision.

    "Anyone believing the US government did not have a hand in this or put pressure on Twitter might as well buy a bridge from me. It is — sadly — also a reminder that Russia, or the rest of the world for that matter, has failed to create alternatives to Facebook, Google, Twitter et al. and thus have put the social media lives of their citizens into the hands of whatever lunatic regime resides in Washington," Sardo said.

    He added that by Thursday's decision, Twitter had "effectively dropped" its principle of impartiality toward the content published on the platform. The expert suggested that the social media platform should have banned all media instead of picking only two Russian outlets.

    "An honest decision would have been to ban all News Corps from its Service — after all, all of them, in one way or the other, 'influenced' the election," the expert said.

    Stephen Lendman, a writer and political activist, told Sputnik, that social media like Facebook and Twitter have been increasingly acting as gatekeepers, by censoring truth-telling on vital issues they "irresponsibly" called fake news.

    "[Social media] changed their advertising policy to counter alleged disinformation, indicating they’ll monitor content to assure it. Their policy amounts to censorship, reliable information sources, challenging the official narrative, [are] targeted. Digital democracy is threatened, the last frontier of free and open expression," Lendman pointed out.

    Lendman emphasized that social media platforms, just like major media, should be politically neutral.

    "[Media outlets’] commentaries and editorials are spaces for opinions. They should be based on facts, not fiction. RT and Sputnik observe these standards, why large audiences follow their reports. Western media operations are polar opposite, mocking legitimate journalism," Lendman said.

    Consequences For US Society

    In Lendman’s point of view, if the US authorities continue to impose pressure on the media, which publish materials not corresponding with Washington’s vision of events, the situation may have very negative consequences for the US society.

    "Dissent in America is endangered. Views critical of US policies could be criminalized, writers like myself vulnerable if this happens. Hardline dark forces in Washington control policymaking. It’s increasingly belligerent and repressive at home — a slippery slope for possible political or military dictatorship the way things are going," the expert noted.

    Lendman called the US authorities’ allegations about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election "fabricated" because these claims had not been supported by any evidence.

    "Russia didn’t interfere in America’s election or any others. Washington interferes in foreign elections repeatedly. US media ignore what goes on," Lendman said.

    Phil Butler, CEO at both Pamil Visions PR firm and Our Russia media project, agrees, that the US authorities’ actions in conjunction with public companies like Twitter, are aimed at hampering the operations of the Russian media in the United States, amount to a "clear infringement on freedom of the press and individual freedoms."

    "The precedents being set today will reverberate throughout civil society in America, and then internationally… The actions by Twitter foretell of the predetermined lawmaking in my view," Butler told Sputnik.

    Twitter's ban comes as the social network's management is due to testify to a US House committee at a public hearing over its role in supposed Russian meddling in last year’s US presidential election. Senior managers from the company will appear alongside Facebook and Google staff members.

    Russian officials have repeatedly denied the allegations of meddling in the US election. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow has never interfered in foreign states' internal affairs and does not intend to do so in the future.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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