TikTok is immediately halting livestreaming and the posting of new content while the company evaluates Russia’s newly passed law cracking down on independent journalism, the social networking service said in a statement Sunday.
“TikTok is an outlet for creativity and entertainment that can provide a source of relief and human connection during a time of war when people are facing immense tragedy and isolation. However, the safety of our employees and our users remain our highest priority,” it said on website and follow-up tweets.
It continued: “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. 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.”
On Friday, Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a law banning “fake news” — or news that Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin finds objectionable — with a punishment of up to 15 years in prison. The law specifically targets information about the distribution of “false news” about the country’s recent invasion of Ukraine — which Putin insists is officially a “military operation.”
The censorship legislation has forced some of the last independent Russian media to shut down, including the TV station Dozhd and the radio station Ekho Moskvy, and other sites have either been blocked or access to social media networks appears to have been slowed down in the country.
Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Russia’s internet censor agency Roskomnadzor on Friday said it plans to block access to Facebook, cutting off a significant source of information about the Ukraine invasion as the conflict continues.
The agency said there have been 26 cases of bans against Russian media and information resources from Facebook since October 2020. It said Facebook has restricted access to the Zvezda TV channel, the RIA Novosti news agency, Sputnik, Russia Today, Lenta.ru and Gazeta.ru.
And on Saturday, Twitter banned over 100 accounts that pushed the pro-Russian hashtag #IStandWithPutin in an effort by the tech company to battle online misinformation by groups and individuals affiliated with the Russian government.
Twitter Inc. said in a statement that it plans to start labeling all links from state-backed Russian outlets shared on its platform. In its statement, Twitter said that the “overwhelming majority” of content from state-backed Russian media — more than 45,000 tweets a day — is being tweeted by individuals rather than by institutions.