Brave Twitter axes Russian media ads 11 months after the fact

And Jack's off on the user numbers

Twitter has kicked up a fresh new crop of controversies over both its advertising policies and its user numbers.

The San Francisco-based milliblogging giant said Thursday it would stop taking ads from two major Russian state-backed media outlets, Russia Today and Sputnik, effective immediately. Both publications had recently been fingered as helping in Russian efforts to influence last November's US presidential election by strategically purchasing and running political ads on Twitter.

"This decision was based on the retrospective work we've been doing around the 2016 US election and the US intelligence community’s conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the election on behalf of the Russian government," Twitter said in a statement.

"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."

Both RT and Sputnik will be allowed to keep their Twitter accounts, and each took the opportunity to blast Twitter for the move.

The move comes after Twitter was roundly criticized for its handling of Russian ads, and its involvement in the Kremlin's election-meddling efforts by taking the ad money and for not reporting or tackling the paid-for pro-Russian propaganda on its platform.

To that end, the Jack Dorsey-run biz said it will be donating the roughly $2m in advertising money it received from RT to research efforts. No mention was made of Sputnik ad revenues.

Meanwhile, Twitter 'fessed up to having unintentionally fudged is user numbers. In its latest quarterly report, Twitter said that since 2014 it has double-counted users running some third-party apps.

"We discovered that since the fourth quarter of 2014 we had included users of certain third-party applications as Twitter MAUs that should not have been considered MAUs," Twitter told its shareholders.

"These third-party applications used Digits, a software development kit of our now-divested Fabric platform, that allowed third-party applications to send authentication messages via SMS through our systems, which did not relate to activity on the Twitter platform."

The adjustment will be minor to the overall user numbers, accounting for only about two million of a total 328 million monthly active users last quarter.

Profitability continues to elude Twitter. For the quarter, ended September 30 this year, its sales of $590m were down four percent, year on year, and Twitter reported a net loss of $21m, better than the $103m loss it registered in the third quarter of 2016. ®

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