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Facebook Restores Kremlin-Funded RT Posting Privileges After Temporary Block

Variety logo Variety 1/19/2017 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

UPDATED, 11:40 a.m. ET: Facebook on Thursday said the account of RT, Russia’s state-funded broadcaster, is now able to share articles, videos and other content, after the social-media site suspended its access a day earlier.

“All the features for this page owner have now been restored. We are looking into the reasons behind the temporary block,” a Facebook rep said in a statement.

Earlier, RT said it had been banned from posting anything on Facebook except text messages until until Saturday, Jan. 21, at 10:25 pm Moscow time (2:25 pm ET) — after Donald Trump has been sworn in as the 45th president of the U.S. on Friday.

According to RT (formerly known as Russia Today), Facebook instituted the block after the news org was accused of illegally live-streaming President Obama’s final press conference Wednesday.

According to RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, RT was blocked from posting to Facebook following a complaint from Current Time TV, a Russian-language channel that is part of the U.S. State Dept.-funded Radio Liberty.

“I’m not surprised. If the Department of State could block oxygen to us, they would do it,” Simonyan told Russian government news agency RIA Novosti.

RT said it was streaming the Obama broadcast from the Associated Press’ AP Direct feed, and that it had rights to the AP video as a subscribing client. The RT News Facebook page has 4.1 million “likes.”

In addition, on Thursday RT claimed that Dataminr, the news-alerting service built on top of Twitter feeds, terminated its contract with RT effective Dec. 31, 2016, without providing a reason. The Russian network speculated Dataminr cut it off after the Wall Street Journal reported last year that Twitter was blocking U.S. intelligence services from using Dataminr while still working with RT.

Separately, on Jan. 12, C-SPAN’s live internet stream was replaced for about 10 minutes with RT’s feed. On Thursday, C-SPAN said the disruption was caused by “an internal routing error,” and that its systems weren’t hacked, as initially suspected.

“C-SPAN.org was not hacked,” the news channel said. “We have determined that during testing for inaugural coverage, RT’s signal was mistakenly routed onto the primary encoder feeding C-SPAN1’s signal to the internet, rather than to an unused backup.”

In recent weeks, reports have emerged that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia launched a deliberate attempt to help Trump get elected, including hacking the Democratic National Committee’s email servers and leaking them publicly via WikiLeaks.

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