Kaspersky calls out Twitter's Jack Dorsey over ad ban

In an open letter, Eugene Kaspersky criticizes Twitter's CEO and reveals that his Russia-based cybersecurity firm has been banned from advertising on the social network.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read
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Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of Kaspersky Lab.

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Twitter vowed to stop Russian disinformation on its social network and banned hundreds of puppet accounts and bots. Now, a Russia-based cybersecurity company is caught up in the fray.

Kaspersky Lab founder Eugene Kaspersky wrote an open letter on Friday, calling out Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over an advertising ban on the social network. In the letter, Kaspersky revealed that Twitter banned Kaspersky Lab from advertising on its platform in February, telling the cybersecurity company that its business model "conflicts with acceptable Twitter ads." 

"Kaspersky Lab considers this action -- an advertising ban without any valid reasoning or evidence of misconduct -- as being contradictory to Twitter's principles for freedom of expression," the company said in a statement. 

Russian trolls on social media have plagued social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as lawmakers and the public call for the tech giants to institute better quality control. US officials have taken action, like by announcing charges on the Internet Research Agency as well as sanctions for the Russian government

Twitter has taken action too, by banning accounts tied to the Russian trolling effort. It's also taken a stricter advertising stance against Russian-based organizations, including Russia Today and Sputnik. Kaspersky Lab is also now under that ban, despite the company's efforts to stay out of the Russian conflict. 

A Twitter representative, in a statement, said the decision to ban the firm "is based on our determination that Kaspersky Lab operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices. Kaspersky Lab may remain an organic user on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules." 

But Kaspersky disagrees.

"You're only shooting yourself in the foot when you cater to the geopolitical noise and start refusing to promote material on false pretenses," he said in his letter. 

Kaspersky blames the same "geopolitical noise" for the US government's ban on Kaspersky Lab products. Lawmakers are concerned that Kaspersky Lab has ties to Russia, alleging that spies are using its antivirus software to steal secrets. He's called it "false allegations" on multiple occasions.

Twitter's representative cited a Department of Homeland Security notice on Kaspersky Lab, referencing ties between Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence agencies. 

Kaspersky said his company would not be advertising with Twitter for the rest of 2018, even if the ban were lifted. The funds will instead go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Kaspersky said. 

In 2017, the company spent about $94,500 on Twitter advertising.

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