It has proved formidable enough to put the West on the defensive. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced RT last April as a “propaganda bullhorn” for Putin, accusing it of “distorting what is happening, or not happening, in Ukraine.” Western policymakers have increasingly debated the need for a more vigorous response, either with fresh funding for their own media outlets, such as Voice of America, or a new Russian-language channel to fight Putin on his own turf.
On Monday, the Russian state-funded television network RT America met a Justice Department deadline to register as a “foreign agent” under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Along with RT’s frequent coverage of UFO sightings, this type of material attracts a lot of eyeballs online. The videos on RT’s English-language YouTube channel have racked up nearly 1.4 billion views, thanks in large part to RT’s knack for posting raw footage of violence and natural disasters that tends to go viral, drawing more viewers to its political offerings.
The Justice Department has not offered a detailed public explanation. But in a January 2017 report accusing Russia of interfering in the 2016 election to elect Donald Trump, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence determined that RT and sister radio network Sputnik “contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging.”