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Twitter Drops Ads by Russia’s Sputnik, RT

FILE - A man reads tweets on his smartphone with a Twitter logo displayed in the background, in a March 10, 2016, illustration photo.

The social media company Twitter on Thursday announced it would block any advertising on its platform from Russia-sponsored news outlets Sputnik and RT.

The company, in a statement on its blog, said it took the step as part of its “ongoing commitment to help protect the integrity of the user experience on Twitter.”

Twitter cited a report produced in January by U.S. intelligence agencies that concluded the Russian government attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“Early this year, the U.S. intelligence community named RT and Sputnik as implementing state-sponsored Russian efforts to interfere with and disrupt the 2016 Presidential election, which is not something we want on Twitter,” the company statement read.

In its report, the intelligence community concluded “with high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed an influence campaign intended to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

Further, the report claims “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect [Donald] Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” though it provides no direct evidence for either of these claims.

The Russian effort to influence the election is said to have consisted of several hundred fake Twitter accounts and about $100,000 worth of Facebook ads promoting "divisive" causes like Black Lives Matter. U.S. media reports also indicate Russians purchased similar ads on Google.

Lawyers for Twitter and Facebook will testify next month at hearings before congressional committees investigating what, if any, effect the Russian trolls may have had on the election.

Twitter said it will still allow RT, formerly called Russia Today, and Sputnik to remain as users on the platform, but they will not be eligible to buy ads. The company also said it will take the nearly $2 million it has earned on ads from the Russian news agencies since 2011 and donate it to support “external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections.”