Facebook lifts ban on Russian ‘news’ media RT prior to Trump inauguration [Update]

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Facebook has limited the posting privileges of RT News on its platform after the Russian media ran an allegedly pirated stream of Barack Obama’s last press conference on Wednesday, January 18.

The ban is reportedly scheduled to be lifted at 2:35 ET on Saturday, January 21, which is a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. According to Gizmodo, the Kremlin-funded news outlet has been banned from posting any articles, photos and videos on Facebook, but can still has the ability to post text directly to the platform.

“We were blocked while livestreaming Obama’s final press-conference. Such things happen because (for ex.) some other news media livestreams carry the same shots and feed, and Facebook considers this a copyright violation,” the outlet said on its Facebook page.

Given that RT has been an outspoken supporter of President-elect Trump, many find the timing of Facebook’s block suspicious.

In addition to Facebook, the Russian media further said it has been denied access to Dataminr, a Twitter-based news-breaking service supporting numerous news agencies worldwide.

RT told Gizmodo it believes the ban was the sign of a “direct US government involvement” and has plans to fight it. Here’s how Gizmodo puts it:

The Russian news outlet claims that they were running an Associated Press stream of the press conference. The organization that supposedly sent the copyright notice, Current Time TV, reportedly told RT that they did no such thing.

Current Time TV sent RT a statement stating that, “the channel has not sent any complaints regarding RT or any other organizations in connection with the live feed.”

In the aftermath of the Facebook block, RT further added that some users have been experiencing troubles accessing its accounts on other social media platforms, but its accounts on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter seem to be up and running.

RT’s block marks the first time the Russian media has been denied posting privileges on Facebook, with no other news outlet in recent memory having been punished in a similar manner.

We’ve contacted Facebook for comment and will update this piece accordingly if we hear back.

Update 10:00 ET: According to RT and its Head of Social Media Ivor Crotty, the Facebook block was triggered as “part of an algorithmic failure to acknowledge rights acquired by broadcasters.”

Crotty further dismissed Gizmodo’s claims that the ban was “direct US government involvement” as false. The same goes for the allegations that RT ran a pirated stream of Obama’s press conference, reiterating that that the Russian media had secured the rights for the livestream as a client of the Associated Press.

Update 10:20 ET: Crotty told TNW that RT continues to battle the block, but has not yet heard “a word from Facebook” as to what the exact reason for the ban could be.

Update 03:45 ET: Facebook has lifted the ban on RT, completely restoring the outlet’s posting privileges. A spokesperson for the social media giant said that, “All the features for this page owner have now been restored. We are looking into the reasons behind the temporary block.”

RT has also confirmed the block has been rescinded with a post on their Facebook account:

RT Gets Banned From Facebook Until After Trump's Inauguration on Gizmodo

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