Influenced by the latest “fake news” law passed by the Russian government, TikTok has decided to suspend new video content and livestreaming services in the country.
Representatives of the popular video app, which is owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, issued the following statement on Sunday: “In light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service in Russia 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.”
Signed last Friday by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s new law bans what the country’s authorities deem to be “fake” news about its military, including language that describes Russia’s attack against Ukraine as an “invasion,” under threat of a 15-year prison sentence.
Regarding the question of how to handle state-controlled media on its platform, TikTok said in the statement last Sunday that it will begin applying labels to content from some state-controlled accounts over the coming days. On TikTok, content from outlets such as RT now includes a label at the bottom of the video that says “Russian state-controlled media,” with a link to more information.
At present, user visits to major news websites in Russia have been affected to varying degrees. The UK’s BBC has been forced to temporarily halt its reporting in Russia, as its Director General Tim Davie said the new legislation appeared to criminalize the process of independent journalism. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Bloomberg and CNN also said they have temporarily suspended coverage from Russia.