TikTok will suspend both live-streaming and new content from Russia in response to the country’s new “fake” news law, TikTok said Sunday on the video app’s official communications account on Twitter.
Signed Friday by President Putin, Russia’s new law bans what the country calls “fake” news about its military, including language that describes Russia’s attack of Ukraine as an “invasion,” under threat of a 15-year prison sentence.
“In light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend live-streaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law,” TikTok wrote on Twitter, noting that its in-app messaging would continue. “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.”
2/ In light of Russia’s new ‘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.
— TikTokComms (@TikTokComms) March 6, 2022
The law has further silenced homegrown Russian media voices that until recently were providing the Russian public with information absent from the government’s official account on state-owned media.
Despite TikTok’s increasingly dominant role as a source of content on the conflict from both Russia and Ukraine, the video app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, has been quieter than its Silicon Valley counterparts in disclosing the company’s policies on disinformation, fact-checking, or censorship.
On Thursday, TikTok representatives exclusively told The Washington Post that the company was developing a policy on how it will handle state-controlled media on its platform. Following questions about TikTok’s choice of words during the conflict, the company, which previously described the invasion as “the situation” sent a statement including the words “war in Ukraine.”
TikTok has begun applying labels to content from some state-controlled media accounts. On TikTok, content from outlets like RT now include a label at the bottom of the video that says “Russia state-controlled media,” with a link to more information.
In late February, days after Russia invaded Ukraine, both Facebook and TikTok said they would ban Russian state media in Europe, which set the stage for retaliation from Russia.
The Russian government has cordoned off social media sites in recent days, increasing pressure on tech giants to restrict information about the war with Ukraine and continue publishing state-backed media on their services. Russia’s Internet censorship agency announced plans to block access to Facebook around the country on Friday, after throttling access to the social media site. The agency, Roskomnadzor, said the country had blocked Facebook in order to promote the free flow of information, blaming the company’s restrictions on Russian state media.
Roskomnadzor has been increasing pressure on other tech giants as well. Twitter also reported the service was restricted for some users in Russia and Roskomnadzor announced that it had sent letters to Google and TikTok.
Putin’s new law could force tech companies to stop operating in the region, without the Russian government having to actively block a social media service.