American companies are funding the Kremlin’s info war against us

An employee at Russia Today’s Moscow office. Iliya Pitalev Sputnik

 

Western advertising has been filling the coffers of Russian propaganda outlets, underwriting a racistmisogynistanti-American media that keeps Vladimir Putin in place and actively threatens America’s political system. Writing in The Daily Beast, Mitchell Polman states clearly that “without those ad dollars it would be difficult for Russian media to function.”

Congress recently held social media companies’ feet to the fire for accepting Russian political advertising on their platforms during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook and Twitter have been contrite and promised to work harder to vet future advertising and curb foreign political propaganda aimed at undermining America’s political system.

Attracting less attention and practically unaffected by the focus on Russian propaganda in the U.S., however, is how American advertisers spend multiple millions to underwrite Russian media companies. Western European and U.S. companies purchase endless hours of television advertisements and millions of social media marketing impressions with Russian media organizations that then use foreign ad dollars to weaponize media abroad and against their own people. One recent U.K. estimate in The Times showed “180 British or multinational firms advertising on RT, in a business estimated to be worth more than £1.5m a year” — about $2 million just on one Russian media outlet.

Recent Western state pressure has induced Twitter to cut its support and payment to recognized Russian propaganda outlets RT and Sputnik, admitting that it previously flooded those sites with well-paying advertisements. RT and Sputnik both focus on overseas media markets, targeting their disinformation and dissenting voices at Western democracies and prompting U.K government official Damian Collins to suggest that “British companies should not be advertising on channels that disseminate fake news designed to spread fear and confusion.” Earlier this week, RT was forced to register itself as a foreign agent with the U.S. Justice Department. Twitter announced it will use profits earned from RT advertising to support independent research into civic engagement and elections.

Keurig can pull its ads from Fox News and Nordstrom can yank Ivanka Trump’s clothing line from their racks because of consumer sentiment and protest, but the pressure for Western advertisers to curb their advertising from adjacencies on offensive Russian programming or state-sanctioned media organizations is minimal. Western companies are keenly aware of how commercial placement affects the way their products are perceived in consumer-activist America, but this activism is out of sight and mind when it comes to the very same companies advertising in Russian media. “We all talk about how horrible Russian TV is—how it does hate speech, incitement of violence, nuclear threats, it makes the lives of minorities hellish,” said Russian media researcher Peter Pomerantsev in The Atlantic. “But at the same time, Russian TV [is] full of Western advertising—IKEA, Volvo, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble.”

 

Full article: American companies are funding the Kremlin’s info war against us (Star-Telegram)

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