The responses by the Russian network won’t make you feel much better.
For a few brief moments yesterday, people expected some very bad news after an unexplained display on government network C-SPAN led many to think their website had fallen victim to Russian hackers.
For ten strange minutes, the network’s web feed switched over to simply showing the live feed from Russia’s RT (Russia Today) network, known for its implementation of state propaganda via English cable and satellite broadcasts in the United States. According to The New York Times, a recently declassified intelligence report found that RT served to “aimed at undermining viewers’ trust of U.S. democratic procedures.”
Here’s the footage of the network switching over from its usual fare to some truly bizarre Russian programming. The video was captured by Deadspin’s Timothy Burke:
Here's the moment Russia Today took over the C-SPAN1 feed. Unclear what happened. RT aired for about ten minutes be… https://t.co/s3JYyLzrT2— Timothy Burke (@Timothy Burke)1484250552.0
Sadly the assumption that C-SPAN had been hacked isn’t nearly as far-fetched as it would have been a year or even months ago, but a statement from the U.S. network reads that the incident came as a result of an “internal routing error.”
Earlier in December, C-SPAN web feed aired an equally bizarre 30-minute clip of Vladimir Putin addressing the Federal Assembly.
Responding to an inquiry from Gizmodo/Deadspin, the communications office of Russian network RT offered up this flip response to the incident:
Speaking to another outlet, RIA Novosti, RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan offered up, “C-SPAN itself has already said the feed interruption was an internal malfunction, but mainstream [media] are still going into hysterics saying we hacked them. Our newsroom ran out of popcorn watching this."
It’s hard to know what to make of C-SPAN’s statement and the Russian responses. If a slip-up like this were to happen unintentionally, it’s easy to see it happening on the little-watched government network. But the pithy responses by Russian principles and the obfuscated hacking allegations and investigation of the past two months can’t help but cast doubt over the assertion this was a harmless mistake.