Russia’s RT is facing numerous bans and restrictions following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, and it’s using a familiar tactic to get around them: move to a laissez-faire service. The state-supported media company has made its around-the-clock livestream available on the “free speech” platform Rumble. This will theoretically let devotees tune in when its broadcasts and social media posts aren’t accessible elsewhere.
The move may be more of a hedge than a necessity, although that situation could change. RT’s English livestream was still available on YouTube as of Thursday. However, CNN said it obtained a memo indicating that RT America’s production company T&R Productions was laying off all staff due to “unforeseen business interruption events.”
Rumble, like Gab and Parler, has lately served as a haven for right-wing personalities who’ve been kicked off other platforms or feel their content is restricted elsewhere. Fox News host Ban Bongino, for instance, moved to Rumble after YouTube banned him over COVID-19 misinformation.
As a Russian state-backed media firm, RT has been accused of serving as a propaganda mouthpiece and either heavily restricted on some sites or banned outright. An EU ban on RT has led to action at multiple sites. Facebook has demoted RT content, Twitter has halted ads and recommendations (on top of labels warning of RT’s ties) and YouTube has denied ad revenue. Most recently, Reddit banned all links to Russian state media. This is on top of bans from conventional TV providers like DirecTV.
As with other moves to alternative services, though, the Rumble shift might not help RT recover its lost exposure. Rumble is relatively small compared to mainstream social media sites, streaming providers and conventional broadcasters. RT’s viewership is likely to take a steep hit regardless — Rumble is more of a consolation prize than a solution.