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Facebook Temporarily 'Bans' RT After Presumed Technical Failure

Facebook temporarily banned the RT media outlet from posting images, videos, and links to articles on the social network. RT said the ban, which was originally supposed to run until the morning of January 21, resulted from a technical failure involving the company's online streaming rights algorithms.

The problem arose when RT live-streamed President Obama's final press conference on January 18. RT said it received a notification about the stream being stopped by Facebook because it "may contain audio or visual content" belonging to another Russian media organization dubbed Current Live TV. These notifications are part of Facebook's efforts to make sure movies, news broadcasts, and other videos are streamed only by their rights holders.

RT later had its ability to share content via its Facebook page revoked until 2:55pm ET on January 21. Speculation about this ban was rampant--was it somehow motivated by a desire to censor the Russian media company during president-elect Donald Trump's inauguration on January 20? Did the U.S. government use Facebook to poke Russia in the eye? RT, which has supported Trump and is often critical of the United States, seemed to think so.

But that doesn't appear to have been the case. "All the features for this page owner have now been restored," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to Tom's Hardware. "We are looking into the reasons behind the temporary block." The company pushed back on claims that any outside force had any involvement with the incident; the ban truly appears to be the result of a malfunction in the systems meant to protect rights holders.

RT said both Current Live TV and the Associated Press--whose stream of Obama's press conference RT was sharing--denied any involvement with this episode. Nobody will know for sure what happened until Facebook completes its investigation into what happened, but right now it seems like a simple mistake, and the company was quick to remove the restrictions on RT's page. It appears this wasn't a grand conspiracy so much as it was a simple malfunction.

Yet the incident's timing couldn't have been worse. RT's ban arrived before the presidential inauguration, sure, but it also followed the announcement of the Facebook Journalism Project. That effort is meant to help Facebook's billion-plus users get their news by halting the spread of misinformation, educating people on critical news analysis, and creating new technologies for media organizations so they can better take advantage of the platform.

As we explained when the Facebook Journalism Project was revealed:

This matters to Facebook because it needs the media to give its users something to do besides post memes, look at baby pictures, and decline friend requests from people they barely knew in high school. It matters to the media because Facebook is currently one of the best ways for journalism to find an audience while also bringing in the revenues needed to fund that reporting. And it matters to Facebook users, because they should have access to news.

A technical failure that could have prevented a media outlet--even one created by the Kremlin to serve the Russian government's interests--from reaching Facebook users threatened to undermine those goals. Facebook didn't take an editorial stance on RT's quality. Its algorithms merely intervened where they probably shouldn't have, which has become all too common on the platform, where content is often mistakenly flagged by faulty technology.

Facebook has every right to police its platform. But as the company becomes ever more important to the media industry, and as it promises to find ways to help more than 1 billion people get their news, algorithmic failures like this one are harder to brush aside as mere technical issues. The company has positioned itself as the center of social discourse; at the very least it should be expected not to silence media organizations, however briefly, by mistake.

  • therealduckofdeath
    Yeah, obviously an unfortunate error. Facebook banning their revenue-generating fascist trolls? That will never happen. :)
    Reply
  • caustin582
    I wish they would ban them permanently, along with any other news organizations from countries where the media is state-owned.
    Reply
  • Elysian890
    now everyone will miss posts about some random russian guys calling "fake news" other media, oh and don't forget the conspiracy theories and the UFOs
    Reply
  • SCREAM2NIGHT
    "I wish they would ban them permanently, along with any other news organizations from countries where the media is state-owned."

    There goes the BBC, CBC, etc.
    Reply
  • damric
    I used to frequent RT for a different perspective but now there are too many neonazis spreading hate speech there.
    Reply
  • Virtual_Singularity
    19183611 said:
    I wish they would ban them permanently, along with any other news organizations from countries where the media is state-owned.

    Riiight. Since the mainstream media, privately owned by a handful of elitist, globalist, real life friends who belong to the same clubs and all promote the same agenda regardless whether left or right leaning, have proven to be so "honest" and "non-biased". A news network being "state owned" doesn't/shouldn't automatically disqualify it from being viewed. Any news source or network should be judged solely on their _journalistic merit_, whether its state owned or not has nothing to do with it.

    Here in the US and in the nations in our sphere of influence, Operation Mockingbird already long ago ensured we wouldn't have access to a truly "free press". Operation Mockingbird, as it was called, was exposed in 1975 during the Church Committee investigation. Named for Senator Frank Church, D-ID, its findings were published the following year. Through the Church Committee investigation in 1975, it became clear the program was developed in the 1950s for the purpose of persuading American and foreign media, as well as to use the media as gate-keepers to prevent certain information from being published and reaching the masses. This information should alarm and disgust any free-thinking American. It should come as no surprise the NSA has grown so out of control, or that some in the US and elsewhere would just love to shut down any news sources that report with some measure of integrity instead of just towing the line by sticking to the narrative of the MSM.

    If not for being able to access alternative news networks and sources (and caring enough to question the narrative we're given by the likes of CNN et al(Fox as well), we'd all be in the dark as to the other side of many stories. We'd all be subject to stories built on half-truths and outright lies. We'd all have the attitude that we should bury our heads in the sand just because a news source is "state owned"... We'd all have no clue about so many things the MSM refuse to report. RT, Zerohedge, and others have often proven to do their jobs in journalism where our media has utterly failed. Have covered stories and issues the MSM have absolutely refused to cover.

    When one shuts out alternative sources of news, without even objectively researching them, they're no different than those 3 proverbial monkeys refusing to hear, see, or speak any evil. The metaphorical evil, in this case, being whatever some elitist control freaks who'd love nothing more than to dictate what we all can and cannot hear, see, and speak, would deem it to be.
    Reply
  • damric
    ^ tl: dr

    Typical RT conspiracy theorist rant.
    Reply
  • Virtual_Singularity
    19204197 said:
    ^ tl: dr

    Typical RT conspiracy theorist rant.

    Typical personal attack by someone who'd apparently be less informed about what's going on in the world. Just fyi, it isn't a conspiracy theory if whoever your using that same old "conspiracy" nonsense against only mentioned facts that can easily be confirmed by anyone who cared to do some honest research.
    Reply
  • damric
    Go watch your Alex Jones, and your RT, and make sure to post horrible things about Jews and colored people in the comment section, because that's what people do there. I can literally go to any page on RT and get you a screen shot of the comment section and that's what you will find.
    Reply
  • Virtual_Singularity
    19205310 said:
    Go watch your Alex Jones, and your RT, and make sure to post horrible things about Jews and colored people in the comment section, because that's what people do there. I can literally go to any page on RT and get you a screen shot of the comment section and that's what you will find.

    I never said anything about Alex Jones, or commenting on RT's stories. If making false assumptions and personal attacks on others is your usual forte, I'd question why on earth such an exasperating, presumptuous individual as yourself believes you deserve the title "provost" at all.

    It's the merit of the stories covered by any news source which make it worthy or unworthy of viewing, not what's said in the peanut gallery. I choose not to comment on RT btw, just to correct your false assumption. Their viewership is huge and growing, and those who do choose to comment represent but a fraction of that viewership. Also, comparing Alex Jones to RT or any credible news source, only exemplifies your apparent preference for resorting to personal attacks rather than reason when others disagree with you.

    Spotify choosing not to censor their comment section on RT or elsewhere doesn't disqualify the merit of a given story covered. Because the viewer isn't "protected" from comments we may disagree with should have no bearing on our choice to view a story. Anyone who values free speech should know that much.

    If you're so thin skinned and your delicate sensibilities are so easily offended by certain commentary, I'd have to wonder how you can stand the internet at all. Do you avoid YT vids worth checking out just because there are comments you dislike there as well? CNN does a great job of censoring their comment section, you can always limit yourself to networks like them if free speech offends you so much? Commenting, agreeing or disagreeing, or even reading the commentary at all, isn't a prerequisite of viewing a news piece last I checked...
    Reply