TikTok blocks livestreams and new content in Russia amid ‘fake news’ law

7 Mar 2022

Image: © Alexander/Stock.adobe.com

TikTok and other services such as Snapchat and Netflix are taking new measures in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

TikTok has suspended new content and livestreaming on its platform in Russia while it reviews the country’s new ‘fake news’ law.

Russia’s parliament passed a new law on Friday (4 March) under which people can be jailed or fined for spreading what the government described as “fake” news about military operations.

Video-based app TikTok said yesterday (6 March) that it has suspended certain services in the country while it reviews the “safety implications” of this law. The app, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, said its platform can provide “a source of relief and human protection” during a time of war.

“However, the safety of our employees and our users remain our highest priority,” TikTok said. “We will continue to evaluate the evolving circumstances in Russia to determine when we might fully resume our services with safety as our top priority.”

Other companies have been making changes to their services over safety concerns for users. On Saturday, Snapchat announced that it has temporarily disabled the ‘heatmap’ feature of Snap Maps, which shows how many snaps are being taken in certain locations.

State-controlled media policies

TikTok has also said it is planning to put labels on content from “some” state-controlled media outlets in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The company said it began working on this feature last year as it feels additional context can be helpful to users “especially in times of war and in conflict zones”.

“Our goal is to ensure our community has context on this type of content, and that we have the appropriate processes in place to consistently enforce the policy,” TikTok said in a statement on Friday.

According to The Verge, a TikTok spokesperson confirmed that labels would be applied to some Russian state media on the platform, but did not specify which outlets or how many.

While the global tech sector responds to the crisis in Ukraine, other platforms such as Twitter have been flagging content from Russian state media.

Last week, Reddit banned links to Russian state media such as RT and Sputnik on its site, while Google banned apps related to RT and Sputnik from its Play store in Europe and Apple removed RT from the App Store globally.

Meta’s global affairs team vowed to increase its crackdown on Kremlin-controlled Russian media sites. Following a request from the UK government, the company said it would block RT and Sputnik for the country’s Facebook and Instagram users, Sky News reported on Friday.

Netflix suspends service in Russia

Streaming platform Netflix has also responded to the invasion of Ukraine by suspending its service in Russia.

“Given the circumstances on the ground, we have decided to suspend our service in Russia,” a company spokesperson told Variety yesterday.

Last week, the company temporarily stopped all future projects and acquisitions in Russia, Reuters reported. The company also refused to comply with new Russian rules to carry 20 state-backed channels on its platform, according to Politico.

The film industry is taking a stance against the invasion too, as five major Hollywood studios including Disney and Warner Bros have halted upcoming releases in Russia.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic