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TikTok suspends video uploads & livestreaming in Russia

If social media platforms spread ‘false information’ about the Russian military, Putin’s newly passed ‘fake news’ law threatens fines and lengthy prison sentences. TikTok has responded by suspending all new video uploads throughout the region.

The standoff between Big Tech and Russia is becoming more involved by the week.

A widespread social media embargo to prevent the Kremlin state from pushing propaganda or profiting from ad space – involving YouTube (Google), Meta, and Twitter – has now been escalated by the world’s most popular video-based platform, TikTok.

The vertical video app had already removed Russian state media from its content streams last week, but it appears more drastic measures have been taken in response to Putin’s latest actions.

Having retaliated to Twitter and Facebook by putting partial restrictions on their services throughout Russia, the President has now targeted foreign media and the entirety of social media with a blanket censorship legislation.

So, what exactly does this look like?

Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law

In an attempt to stem the constant flow of sanctions against Russia, Putin signed off on a vague ‘fake news law’ last Friday (March 4th).

This reactionary decree states that those who spread what Moscow deems to be ‘false information’ about the Russian military, are to be punished with sizable fines or up to 15-year prison sentences.

Potential for remand also encompasses those who publicly call for further sanctions against the nation, whether they’re from within Russia’s borders or beyond – access to the BBC website, predictably, has been blocked completely.

‘This law will force punishment (and very tough punishment) on those who lied and made statements which discredited our armed forces,’ Duma chairman Vyacheslav Volodin claims. Chiefly, any talk of ‘invasion’ or ‘war’ – contrary to Putin’s supposed ‘special military operation’ in the name of national security – is deemed illicit.

In light of this, we can expect foreign media services and social media platforms to suspend content created within Russia. The BBC and CNN have already announced they will not broadcast from Moscow whilst the terms of the law are reviewed.

TikTok suspends all uploads within Russia

While traditional media is able to easily regulate and control its content, social media platforms don’t find it quite as straightforward. Their algorithms and mods can react to content once it goes live, but by then it could very well be too late.

In order to ensure that the terms of Putin’s ambiguous ruling are not being broken, therefore, TikTok seniors have decided to suspend new videos from going up in Russia.

Through its official Twitter account, TikTok announced: ‘In light of Russia’s ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law. Our in-app messaging service will not be affected.’

TikTok reportedly has around 36 million users in Russia, so it will not have taken this decision lightly, but ensuring the safety of staff and creators clearly takes precedent.

‘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,’ TikTok notes. Elsewhere, Netflix has now withdrawn its own service in the country after refusing to meet Russian quotas for state-backed channels.

With Russia’s economy already under siege from western sanctions, its looking likely that Putin’s latest retort will only put the country under further strain.


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