Russia's foreign ministry on Thursday threatened retaliation after social media giant Twitter banned paid ads from Kremlin-backed news agencies RT and Sputnik.
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Oct. 26 (UPI) -- Partly involved in the U.S. investigations of Russia, Twitter on Thursday said going forward it will ban advertisements on its platform that come from two Russian news agencies -- RT and Sputnik.
Twitter in a statement cited the conclusions by the U.S. intelligence community that RT and Sputnik had attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- and that the agencies were critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
The outlets are each owned by the Russian government.
Twitter said its decision was based on its own "internal investigation" of RT and Sputnik activities, as well as that of the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"We did not come to this decision lightly, and are taking this step now as part of our ongoing commitment to help protect the integrity of the user experience on Twitter," the company said.
The statement added that the nearly $2 million in revenue in received from the Russian ads will fund "external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections, including use of malicious automation and misinformation, with an initial focus on elections and automation."
RT editor Margarita Simonyan called Twitter's decision "highly regrettable," adding that it could lead to retaliatory measures against U.S. news media.
The Russian Foreign Ministry made a similar threat after Twitter's announcement.
"We consider this a yet another aggressive step aiming to block the activity of Russian channel RT," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement. She called the move a "result of pressure from some of the U.S. establishment and security services."
"Retaliatory measures will naturally follow."
Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, testified earlier this month before Congress as part of the U.S. investigations of Moscow for purported electoral interference.