Twitter Blocked Kaspersky Ads, Pointing to US Government Ban

After US office closures, a ban from the Department of Homeland Security, and other pitfalls, Twitter confirms it banned Kaspersky from advertising on the social media network.

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Apr 20 2018, 7:06pm

Image: Shutterstock

The fallout for Kaspersky continues. Friday, the cybersecurity firm announced that, in January, Twitter banned Kaspersky from running adverts on the social network. Twitter confirmed the move in a statement to Motherboard.

The news is the latest roadblock for Kaspersky, which has faced US office closures, customers switching products, and scrutiny of its relationship with the Russian government after intelligence agencies said the company’s software was being used for espionage purposes. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security issued a directive banning the use of Kaspersky products on US government systems.

“At the end of January this year, Twitter unexpectedly informed us about an advertising ban on our official accounts where we announce new posts on our various blogs on cybersecurity (including, for example, Securelist and Kaspersky Daily) and inform users about new cyberthreats and what to do about them,” the Kaspersky blog post, written by CEO Eugene Kaspersky, reads.

“In a short letter from an unnamed Twitter employee, we were told that our company ‘operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices,’” it added.

“One thing I can say for sure is this: we haven’t violated any written – or unwritten – rules, and our business model is quite simply the same template business model that’s used throughout the whole cybersecurity industry: We provide users with products and services, and they pay us for them,” Eugene Kaspersky’s post continued.

In a statement to Motherboard, a Twitter spokesperson reiterated that position, and added “Twitter made the policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned by Kaspersky Lab,” and “Kaspersky Lab may remain an organic user on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.”

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Twitter did not elaborate on its decision making process, but the spokesperson pointed to the DHS’s Directive announcement, which notes “the Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks.”

Ostensibly, Twitter made this decision by itself, according to senior government officials, who responded to questions about Kaspersky Friday at the RSA cybersecurity conference.

“We have the authority to issue directives to the federal government; I don’t have the authority to tell the private sector what to do,” Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications at the Department of Homeland Security, said during a panel in response to a question from a reporter.

“We laid out, in what I believe was a very transparent process, how we came to our decision, and I would defer to the companies in terms of why they made their decisions,” she added.

Ciaran Martin, CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the defensive arm of the UK’s signals intelligence agency GCHQ, said during the panel that “it’s about the Russian legal framework.”

“We have given Kaspersky the opportunity to talk to us about whether they seek to provide assurances,” he added. “Those talks are ongoing; I’m not going to say anything more.”