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Twitter Bans Ads From Kaspersky Lab

Twitter Cites DHS Order in Kaspersky Ads Ban

Twitter no longer allows Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab to advertise on the platform and the reason appears to be related to the company’s alleged ties to Russian intelligence.

Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky revealed on Friday that Twitter informed his company of the “policy decision” in late January, claiming that “Kaspersky Lab operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter ads business practices.” The security firm was told that it could remain an organic user on the platform.

“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. What specific (or even non-specific) rules, standards and/or business practices we violated are not stated in the letter,” Eugene Kaspersky wrote in an open letter to Twitter management.

While Twitter’s statement to the press did not provide any additional information, the social media giant did cite a controversial DHS Binding Operational Directive (BOD) that bans Kaspersky products in federal agencies due to concerns that the company may be aiding Russia’s espionage efforts. The BOD, issued in September 2017, was reinforced in mid-December when President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2018.

In his letter to Twitter, Kaspersky calls for more transparency, and points out that the goal of making everything public is to set a precedent as other platforms may also decide to target his company. Kaspersky says the decision is also a matter of principle and the firm is prepared to fight what he has described as “unjustifiable acts akin to censorship.”

“Twitter, if this is a matter of a decision being made in error, please openly admit this; people’d forgive you – everyone makes mistakes! I think that would be the only civilized way to quash any doubts about potential political censorship on Twitter,” Kaspersky said.

Kaspersky said it had spent less than $100,000 for advertising on Twitter last year, but the company will no longer do so even if Twitter reverts its decision. The security firm will donate its planned Twitter advertising budget for 2018 to the EFF.

Kaspersky Lab has been accused of assisting Moscow’s cyber espionage efforts and, despite no evidence being made public, the U.S. and Lithuanian governments have banned the company’s products and the U.K. advised against their use. Even commercial companies in the United States have decided to stop selling antivirus software from the firm as a result of several media reports describing alleged ties between Kaspersky and Russian intelligence.

In response, Kaspersky has launched a transparency initiative that involves significant bug bounties and giving access to its source code, and it has even taken legal action against the United States government over the decision to ban its products.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.