This afternoon, online viewers of politics-meets-Ambien channel C-SPAN were treated to a disturbing change in programming: For around 10 minutes, the web stream aired RT (formerly Russia Today) instead.
The clip below, first noticed and thoughtfully ripped by Deadspin editor Tim Burke, begins as the fairly bland proceedings of the Securities and Exchange Commission. At 1:25 the feed freezes. It looks like a technical glitch or buffering issue, until it abruptly cuts to RT 2:35 in.
C-SPAN emailed the following statement to Gizmodo:
This afternoon the online feed for C-SPAN was briefly interrupted by RT programming. We are currently investigating and troubleshooting this occurrence. As RT is one of the networks we regularly monitor, we are operating under the assumption that it was an internal routing issue. If that changes we will certainly let you know.
It’s a Max Headroom moment of sorts, with authoritarian overtones. After all, last week’s declassified report jointly authored by the CIA, FBI, and NSA stated in no uncertain terms that RT was being used throughout the election as a tool to disseminate propaganda and swing the vote towards Donald Trump.
Currently not much is known as to how this was accomplished or why. We’ve reached out to RT for details and will update if we hear back.
Update 1/12/17 9:30 pm: In a statement, C-SPAN said an initial investigation indicated that the interruption was caused by “an internal routing error” and was not the result of a hack.
“We take our network security very seriously and will continue with a deeper investigation, which may take some time,” said the network. “If we learn anything different as a result of this investigation, we will have a further public statement.”
Update 1/13/17 9:49am: RT finally responded to our multiple requests for comment. In an email, Anna Belkina—RT’s Head of Communications—wrote the following:
She also directed us to the very same C-SPAN statement we had already included in this article, which doesn’t much count as a statement from RT. Pretty huge news if that Lindbergh baby thing is true, though.