TikTok suspends platform in Russia in response to the country's new controversial 'fake news' law 


TikTok has suspended new content and live streaming abilities on its platform in Russia in response to the country’s new controversial ‘fake news’ law, which threatens imprisonment for sharing what authorities consider to be false information.

The announcement made Sunday stated that while ‘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,’ the company said they had ‘no choice’ but to suspend the services. 

The company added that the safety of the app’s employees and users is its highest priority.  

‘We have no choice but to suspend live streaming and new content to our video service in Russia while we review the safety implications of this law,’ TikTok said.  

‘Our in-app messaging service will not be affected,’ the statement reads. ‘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.’   

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday intensified a crackdown on media outlets and individuals who fail to hew to the Kremlin line on Russia’s war in Ukraine, blocking Facebook and Twitter and signing into law a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be ‘fake’ reports.

TikTok is part of the larger Chinese tech company ByteDance. 

TikTok has suspended new content and live streaming abilities in Russia in response to the country's new controversial 'fake news' law, which threatens imprisonment for sharing what authorities consider to be false information

TikTok has suspended new content and live streaming abilities in Russia in response to the country’s new controversial ‘fake news’ law, which threatens imprisonment for sharing what authorities consider to be false information

The platform is not the first media outlet to suspend its services in Russia amid the country’s invasion into Ukraine.  

American Express announced Sunday it is suspending all operations in Russia and Belarus.

Globally issued American Express cards will no longer work at merchants or ATMs in Russia, the company said in a statement. AmEx cards issued locally in Russia by the country’s banks will also no longer work outside of Russia.

The company previously halted its relationships with banks in Russia impacted by the U.S. and international government sanctions, the company said. 

Russians rushed to ATMs and waited in long queues on Sunday and Monday amid concerns that bank cards may cease to function, or that banks would limit cash withdrawals

Russians rushed to ATMs and waited in long queues on Sunday and Monday amid concerns that bank cards may cease to function, or that banks would limit cash withdrawals

Visa and Mastercard have also blocked multiple Russian financial institutions from their network, complying with government sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. 

 An increasing number of Western companies are voluntarily pulling out of Russia, with movie studios suspending releases, energy firms divesting, and sports bodies cancelling competitions.

On Sunday, it was reported that PricewatwerhouseCoopers (PwC) is to cut its Russian firm from its global network, according to Sky News, in what the outlet calls ‘the most significant exit so far by a multinational company since the Putin government’s decision to invade Ukraine.’ 

The move will affect 3,700 partners and staff at PwC in the country, which is one of the world’s big four accountancy firms.  

TikTok made the announcement Sunday, and said they had 'no choice' but to suspend the services, because the app's employees and users is its highest priority

TikTok made the announcement Sunday, and said they had ‘no choice’ but to suspend the services, because the app’s employees and users is its highest priority

The platform is not the first media outlet to suspend its services in Russia in light of Russia's new 'fake news' law

The platform is not the first media outlet to suspend its services in Russia in light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law

TikTok's in-app messaging service will not be affected, and they company will continue to evaluate the evolving circumstances in Russia to determine next steps

TikTok’s in-app messaging service will not be affected, and they company will continue to evaluate the evolving circumstances in Russia to determine next steps

Russia blocked access to Facebook for its 146 million citizens on Friday, threatening to punish anyone who spreads ‘false information’ about its invasion of Ukraine with as many as 15 years in prison. 

The move by President Vladimir Putin, who signed a law that effectively criminalizes public opposition to or non-state news coverage of the conflict, comes as the Kremlin struggles to curb widespread dissent over the war and cope with crippling Western sanctions.

Russia’s media regulator Roskomnadzor announced Friday, nine days after the Russian invasion, that both Facebook and Twitter would be nixed as soon as Saturday under the new guidance, citing at least ’26 cases of discrimination against Russian media.’ 

The watchdog has urged all outlets to use only ‘trustworthy sources’ when reporting on the invasion of Ukraine. 

Russia has blocked access to Facebook for its 144 million citizens amid the Ukraine invasion, a state regulator has said

Russia has blocked access to Facebook for its 144 million citizens amid the Ukraine invasion, a state regulator has said

The move by President Vladimir Putin, who signed a law that effectively criminalizes public opposition to or non-state news coverage of the conflict, comes as the Kremlin struggles to curb widespread dissent over the war and cope with crippling Western sanctions

The move by President Vladimir Putin, who signed a law that effectively criminalizes public opposition to or non-state news coverage of the conflict, comes as the Kremlin struggles to curb widespread dissent over the war and cope with crippling Western sanctions 

Roskomnadzor said the social network ban served as a response to the social media giant’s restricting of Kremlin-run media outlets over inaccuracies in reporting covering the conflict.

‘Since October 2020, 26 cases of discrimination against Russian media and information resources by Facebook have been recorded,’ the media watchdog wrote in a statement announcing the ban Friday.

Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs at Facebook parent Meta, says the move by Putin has left Russian citizens ‘silenced from speaking out’ against the conflict, which carried over into its ninth day Friday.

‘Soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out,’ Clegg said of the decision.

‘We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organize for action.’

Hours later, Russian news outlet Interfax reported that Roskomnadzor had also begun blocking Twitter.

Many contend that the crackdown is the Kremlin’s response to public discontent over the war in Ukraine – a propagandist effort to control the narrative regarding their ongoing military operations in the country.

Following the outset of the invasion last Thursday, companies like Twitter and Google have committed to labeling state-owned media and suspending advertising in Russia.

Meanwhile, the new law would allow Russian authorities to jail anyone who spreads ‘fake’ news about the conflict.

Following Friday’s announcement, the BBC suspended the work of its journalists in the country.

YouTube and Facebook have banned Russian state-owned media outlets RT and Sputnik's channels across Europe (pictured on Tuesday)

YouTube and Facebook have banned Russian state-owned media outlets RT and Sputnik’s channels across Europe (pictured on Tuesday)

Last week, the Kremlin limited access to Facebook after staffers refused to halt its fact-checking and labelling of content from state-owned organizations.

On Thursday, Russian Twitter users began commenting that Facebook, along with the BBC and independent Russian news outlet Meduza, were blocked in the country.

Reports of Russia restricting internet bandwith last week also surfaced, with data from internet censorship tracking company GlobalCheck showing that Russia was limiting user traffic to Facebook.

According to the company, Facebook user connections in the country fell to 25 percent at one point last week, the most throttled the platform had been since the invasion began.

Twitter also said last week that Russians were being restricted from accessing its platform.

In a tweet at the time, the company said it was ‘aware’ that access to the platform has been restricted for some people in Russia, adding it was ‘working to keep our service safe and accessible’.

The move against Facebook also follows blocks imposed on broadcasters including the BBC, the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, The Associated Press reported.

As the conflict in Ukraine rages on, companies in Silicon Valley have acted as de facto watchdogs themselves amid apparent misinformation efforts by Russian media.

Over the weekend, Facebook and Twitter both announced that they had taken down two anti-Ukrainian disinformation campaigns posted by Russian state-owned outlets.

Meta, TikTok, and YouTube, which is owned by Google, have also banned notable state outlets RT and Sputnik from their platforms in Europe.

Reddit, meanwhile, has banned users from posting links to Russian state-owned media. Apple and Google have also removed RT from their app stores outside of Russia.

For now, Russian social networks like VKontakte remain accessible to Russian internet users, along with Meta-owned Instagram and YouTube. 

Key financial firms suspend business in Russia 

Visa said last week it was taking prompt action to ensure compliance with applicable sanctions, adding that it will donate $2 million for humanitarian aid. Mastercard also promised to contribute $2 million.   

‘We will continue to work with regulators in the days ahead to abide fully by our compliance obligations as they evolve,’ Mastercard said in a separate statement last week.

The government sanctions require Visa to suspend access to its network for entities listed as Specially Designated Nationals, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A man walks past a digital board showing Russian rouble exchange rates against the euro and the US dollar outside a currency exchange office in Moscow last week

A man walks past a digital board showing Russian rouble exchange rates against the euro and the US dollar outside a currency exchange office in Moscow last week

A person holds cash withdrawn from an ATM machine at a Sberbank branch in Moscow

A person holds cash withdrawn from an ATM machine at a Sberbank branch in Moscow

It means that clients at three of Russia’s 10 largest banks – VTB, private lender Sovcombank and central-bank-owned Otkritie – can no longer pay with ApplePay and GooglePay services.

That has created problems for metro users in Moscow, forcing commuters to buy one of the transport system’s Troika cards, use a plastic card or sign up to the city’s facial recognition Face Pay system instead.

The United States has added various Russian financial firms to the list, including the country’s central bank and second-largest lender VTB.

People stand in line to withdraw U.S. dollars and Euros from an ATM in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday. Ordinary Russians faced the prospect of higher prices and crimped foreign travel as Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine sent the ruble plummeting

People stand in line to withdraw U.S. dollars and Euros from an ATM in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Friday. Ordinary Russians faced the prospect of higher prices and crimped foreign travel as Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine sent the ruble plummeting

Global bank HSBC is also beginning to wind down relations with a host of Russian banks including the second-largest, VTB.

The bank has little direct exposure in Russia, with around 200 employees and annual revenues of $15 million in the country, against its global income of $50 billion.

Nordic lender Nordea said it had suspended trading in investment funds heavily exposed to Russia

Major money managers, including hedge fund Man Group and British asset manager abrdn, have been cutting their positions in Russia even as the rouble slumped to a record low and trading froze on its bonds.

‘There is certainly a willingness from asset managers and benchmark providers to get rid of Russia exposure in their portfolios and indexes,’ said Kaspar Hense, a senior portfolio manager at Bluebay Asset Management in London.

‘The big question is where do buyers turn up?’

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International is also looking into leaving Russia, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, a move that would make it the first European bank to do so since the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

India’s top lender will not process any transactions involving Russian entities subject to international sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, according to a letter seen by Reuters and people familiar with the matter.

A passenger uses a mobile phone to pay a fare at a Moscow Metro station last week. Passengers fare payments with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay working with Visa and Mastercard were declined amid the sanctions imposed on Russia's VTB Bank

A passenger uses a mobile phone to pay a fare at a Moscow Metro station last week. Passengers fare payments with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay working with Visa and Mastercard were declined amid the sanctions imposed on Russia’s VTB Bank

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced the country will temporarily stop foreign investors from selling Russian assets to ensure they take a considered decision, but did not give details.

Moscow’s move to impose capital controls mean that billions of dollars worth of securities held by foreigners in Russia are at risk of being trapped.

British asset manager Liontrust has suspended dealing in its Russia fund, while the prices of some of the most popular Russia-focused exchange traded funds were trading at a discount to their net asset values.

Ratings agency Fitch has identified 11 Russia-focused funds which have been suspended, with total assets under management of 4.4 billion euros ($4.92 billion) at end-January, a spokesperson said by email.

Shipping firms halt deliveries, leaving Russia isolated

U.S.-based United Parcel Service and FedEx, two of the world’s largest logistics companies, have said they are halting delivery services to Russia and Ukraine.

Container shipping company Ocean Network Express last week suspended bookings to and from Russia.

U.S.-based United Parcel Service and FedEx, two of the world's largest logistics companies, have said they are halting delivery services to Russia (file photo)

U.S.-based United Parcel Service and FedEx, two of the world’s largest logistics companies, have said they are halting delivery services to Russia (file photo)

Some of the companies cutting ties with Russia 

  • Adidas
  • American Express 
  • BP
  • Dell
  • DHL
  • Disney
  • Ericsson
  • FedEx
  • GM
  • Harley-Davidson
  • HSBC
  • Mastercard
  • Nokia
  • PricewatwerhouseCoopers 
  • Shell
  • Sony
  • Uber
  • UPS
  • Visa
  • Volvo
  • Warner Bros.

Shipping group Maersk will temporarily halt all container shipping to and from Russia in response to Western sanctions on Moscow.

Maersk operates container shipping routes to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad in the Baltic Sea, Novorossiysk in the Black Sea, and Vladivostok and Vostochny on Russia’s east coast.

Deutsche Post announced it had stopped DHL deliveries to Russia.

German shipping company Hapag Lloyd said it had issued a temporary suspension on bookings for Russia and halted sailings for Ukraine.

Shipping company MSC has stopped cargo bookings to and from Russian but will still accept and screen food and humanitarian cargoes. 

Automakers halt production and sales in Russia 

General Motors said it would suspend all vehicle exports to Russia until further notice. 

The Detroit company does not have plants in Russia, only sells about 3,000 vehicles annually there and has limited supply-chain exposure.  

Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson said it had suspended its business and shipments of its bikes to Russia.

Daimler Truck said it would freeze its business activities in Russia with immediate effect, including its cooperation with Russian truck maker Kamaz.

Its pre-spinoff parent company, Mercedes-Benz Group , is looking into legal options to divest its 15 percent stake in Kamaz as quickly as possible.

Sweden’s Volvo Cars said it would suspend car shipments to the Russian market until further notice. Volvo sold around 9,000 cars in Russia in 2021, based on industry data. 

Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors said it may suspend production and sale of its cars in Russia as economic sanctions could trigger supply chain disruptions.

French carmaker Renault will suspend some operations at its car assembly plants in Russia next week due to logistics bottlenecks.

Renault is among the Western companies most exposed to Russia, where it makes 8 percent of its core earnings, according to Citibank. It also controls Avtovaz, Russia’s biggest carmaker.

Luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) also paused the delivery of vehicles to Russia.

Entertainment companies and sporting bodies pull out 

Hollywood studios Disney, Warner Bros, and Sony Pictures Entertainment said they would pause theatrical releases of upcoming films in Russia.  

Warner Bros. announced last week that it was cancelling its Russian release of The Batman originally slated for March 2, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Warner Bros.’ statement read, ‘In light of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, WarnerMedia is pausing the release of its feature film The Batman in Russia. 

‘We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. We hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to this tragedy,’ the Warner statement concluded. 

The Walt Disney Company also issued a statement revealing they are cancelling all of their upcoming theatrical releases in Russia, including the upcoming Turning Red, originally slated for release in Russia on March 10.

Canceled: Warner Bros. announced that it was cancelling its Russian release of The Batman originally slated for March 2, due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Canceled: Warner Bros. announced that it was cancelling its Russian release of The Batman originally slated for March 2, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Disney released a statement, which read, ‘Given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming Turning Red from Pixar.’

‘We will make future business decisions based on the evolving situation. In the meantime, given the scale of the emerging refugee crisis, we are working with our NGO partners to provide urgent aid and other humanitarian assistance to refugees,’ the Disney statement concluded.

Sony Pictures also issued a statement that it was cancelling Morbius’ release in Russia, originally slated for March 24, along with other future releases.

Sony’s statement began, ‘Given the ongoing military action in Ukraine and the resulting uncertainty and humanitarian crisis unfolding in that region, we will be pausing our planned theatrical releases in Russia, including the upcoming release of Morbius.’

As well, Russia is facing pariah status in the sporting world because of their invasion of Ukraine after being ostracized by several high-profile federations.  

FIFA and UEFA have expelled Russian clubs and national sides from all competitions after the International Olympic Committee’s call to implement a total ban

FIFA and UEFA have expelled Russian clubs and national sides from all competitions after the International Olympic Committee’s call to implement a total ban

FIFA and UEFA have expelled Russian clubs and national sides from all competitions after the International Olympic Committee’s call to implement a total ban on the country as well as Belarus, who have supported the invasion.

This season’s Champions League final due to be held in St Petersburg on May 28 has been switched to Paris while Spartak Moscow have been thrown out of the Europa League.

Of far greater significance is Russia’s almost certain absence from the 2022 World Cup – they staged the event four years ago – as their qualifying semi-final play-off will not go ahead while their women’s team are banned from Euro 2022. 

Other sectors: Companies from Uber to Adidas seek exit 

Uber is speeding up its work disentangling itself from a Russian partner, the company said last week.

Uber in July 2017 announced that it was forming a partnership with the Russian company Yandex, an online giant to rival Google that offers search engines, music streaming, emails, advertising and autonomous cars.

At the time, Yandex was one of Russia’s most successful internet enterprises, accounting for some 65 percent of all searches and operating popular map and public transit apps.

The deal, which went into effect in 2018, was valued at about $3.7 billion.

Meanwhile, Finnish tire maker Nokian Tyres is shifting production of some of its key product lines from Russia to Finland and the United States.

A taxi operated by Uber, through their joint venture with Yandex, is seen on the streets of Moscow on February 23. Last Monday, Uber announced they were 'accelerating' moves begun last year to end their partnership with the Russian firm

A taxi operated by Uber, through their joint venture with Yandex, is seen on the streets of Moscow on February 23. Last Monday, Uber announced they were ‘accelerating’ moves begun last year to end their partnership with the Russian firm

Nokian produces approximately 80 percent of its annual capacity of 20 million tires in Russia, where it employs around 1,600 people, a company spokesperson said.

Finnish chemical company Kemira discontinued deliveries to Russia and Belarus from March 1 until further notice.

Laptop maker Dell Technologies Inc said it had suspended product sales in Ukraine and Russia.

German sportswear company Adidas has suspended its partnership with the Russian Football Union (RFS) with immediate effect.

Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson is suspending its deliveries to Russia as it assesses the potential impact of sanctions on its business there.

Nokia will stop deliveries to Russia to comply with sanctions. It supplies MTS, Vimpelcom, Megafon and Tele2 in Russia.

Swedish engineering group Sandvik is suspending its operations in Russia.

Sandvik generated around 3.5 percent of its 2021 revenue in Russia. The group has no production in the country but about 900 employees in sales and services.

The world’s biggest aircraft leasing company AerCap Holdings , headquartered in Dublin, will cease leasing activity with Russian airlines.

The company says about 5 percent of its fleet by net book value was on lease to Russian airlines at the end of 2021.

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