Russia-backed RT unblocked on Facebook, claims Dataminr also revoked access

Russian state-funded media company RT (previously Russia Today) was temporarily banned from posting content to Facebook — a move that would have prevented the organization form posting articles, photos or video to the social network until Saturday, the day after Trump’s inauguration. However, Facebook says now that it has lifted the ban, and will look into the reasons behind the block.

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

Separately, RT claimed that it had been blocked by Dataminr, which provides analytics on top of the firehose of Tweets on Twitter to parse and alert its customers about when things happen. It’s used by media and other organizations to track Tweets for news and other large events.

The Facebook ban would have allowed RT to post text updates to Facebook, but not other media content.

According to a post on RT’s website, the ban would have lasted until Saturday, 2:55 PM EST. The reason for the block is being attributed to an illegal live-stream of President Obama’s final press conference Wednesday. But RT denies this, saying they were running an AP stream of the event instead.

There are some conflicting allegations swirling around this story. According to RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, the Facebook block followed a complaint sent to Facebook by Current Time TV, another media property that describes itself as a joint project of Radio Liberty and Voice of America, which are both backed by the U.S. government. But RT also reported that Current Time TV, when asked, told the news organization they did not send in any complaints regarding either RT or any other news outlets.

The post from RT also suggested direct U.S. government involvement was at hand. Simonyan was quoted as saying: “I’m not surprised. If the Department of State could block oxygen to us, they would do it.”

But sources familiar with the matter at Facebook said that a link to outside factors and events is not accurate.

We understand also that Facebook’s community operations team is now in the process of reviewing the reasons behind this block.

RT has a sizable Facebook presence, with 4.1 million likes. However, the organization’s vocal support for president-elect Donald Trump led some to think the timing of the ban was suspicious,  especially given the recent news from U.S. intelligence agencies that pointed to Russia’s involvement in trying to influence the U.S. elections.

But the timing of the ban is odd for another reason. RT claims that Dataminr, a Twitter news discovery tool, has also denied RT service. However, when asked, Dataminr’s founder and CEO, Ted Bailey, declined to comment, neither on RT nor on whether the allegation of a block is accurate.

Dataminr, which counts Twitter as one of its investors, gets the full “firehose” of Twitter’s public data — that is all Tweets that are not sent as direct messages — and provides analytical tools news alerts on top of that to track events as they unfold. Dataminr does not provide predictive analytics but the analytics can help anticipate what that might happen next.

In May last year, it was revealed that Dataminr does cut off access to certain organizations at Twitter’s request. It has in the past revoked access to an alerting tool to the CIA, and the FBI is not a current customer.

Updated with clarifications from Dataminr about current customers and the products it provides.

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