Russia’s RT slams Facebook for blocking ‘wildly popular’ page

RT’s subsidiary project that failed to disclose its Russian funding to visitors didn’t violate rules, TV channel says.

Margarita Simonyan
Simonyan said a report aired by CNN about the project led to Facebook's move [File: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP]

Facebook has blocked a page run by Russian state TV channel RT that did not disclose its Russian funding to visitors, according to the channel’s editor who criticised the move as an attack on media rights.

Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, said on her Telegram social network account on Monday the page of the network’s English-language subsidiary project, In the Now, was “wildly popular” with 2.5 billion views and four million subscribers “on Facebook alone”.

Simonyan said a report aired by CNN about the project being financed by the Russian state led to “Facebook immediately blocking us! Without presenting any of the accusations”.

“We didn’t violate any Facebook rules,” she said.

Simonyan said it should not be an issue that the page did not disclose its Russian funding to visitors.

Asked to comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said RT “must receive an explanation from Facebook regarding what exactly was the reason” for it being blocked.

A YouTube channel describes the project as striving “to build a community of mindful media consumers around important, curious and purpose-driven content”.

Launched on YouTube in March 2014, it makes no mention of any affiliation with RT or Russia and reports more than 2.8 million views.

The topics of the most recent videos included cleaning up the oceans, the “yellow vest” protests in France, the rise of atheism and Russian football hooligans.

‘Inauthentic behaviour’

The European Union-funded project EU vs Disinfo, a campaign to “respond to pro-Kremlin disinformation”, has said In the Now was launched to attract younger audiences turned off by RT’s political stories.

It does this “by adding videos with high emotional and entertainment value” that are used as “bait” to “camouflage” the project’s ties to Russia, EU vs Disinfo said.

Last month, Facebook said it removed more than 500 pages originating in Russia for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”.

Most of the removed accounts were found to be linked to employees of Sputnik, a state news agency launched in late 2014 that is also run by Simonyan.

Facebook said at the time the blocked pages created accounts “to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing”.

Source: News Agencies