Facebook has inadvertently taken a stand against Russia’s alleged meddling in American politics by banning Russia’s State-sponsored news outlet, RT (Russia Today) until after President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
RT used screenshots of messages from their official Facebook account to announce that they had been blocked from posting videos, photos, and articles until Saturday at 10:55 p.m. Moscow time, Uproxx reports.
The news agency can still share basic text-based posts while their account is suspended, so they published a statement explaining that the supposed reason for the ban is related to a live-stream they shared of President Barack Obama’s final press conference.
“Such things happen because (for ex.) some other news media live-streams carry the same shots and feed, and Facebook considers this a copyright violation,” RT wrote.
Apparently, RT live-streamed a feed obtained by the Associated Press — which was a red flag to Facebook.
“The live-rights strike seems to be part of an algorithmic failure to acknowledge rights acquired by broadcasters, and we hope it will be resolved in the short term,” said RT’s social media head Ivor Crotty.
RT also noted that the AP hasn’t launched any complaints against them in connection with the footage.
Perhaps the ban against RT is truly the result of an “algorithmic failure,” but it seems awfully convenient that this all occurred just days before Trump is sworn in as president, and coincidentally lasts through inauguration night.
It’s no secret that Russia has been accused of interfering with the United States election by initiating cyber hacks and trolling our politicians in order to push a very pro-Trump agenda.
While the Russian government has received most of the blame, Russian media is not off the hook. Trump was even criticized months ago for bashing U.S. foreign policy and the American political press corps while praising Vladimir Putin on the Russian TV network, RT America.
Even RT’s own editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, has politicized the Facebook suspension by suggesting the U.S. federal government is behind the ban.
“I’m not surprised,” she said. “If the Department of State could block oxygen to us, they would do it.”
If this ban was politically-motivated, many Americans would likely feel this serves them right for (allegedly) wreaking havoc on our democracy.
However, the underlying issue of censorship is eyebrow-raising. Most news sources rely heavily on social media to distribute content and reach a wide-ranging audience. The thought that Facebook, or any other social network, can so easily silence the media and disrupt their outreach efforts is troubling.
Nevertheless, before we start criticizing Facebook, let’s take a brief moment to chuckle at RT’s expense.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Official Internet Resources of the President of Russia