TikTok said it is suspending users in Russia from posting new content and livestreaming on its app “in light of Russia’s ‘fake news’ law.”
The decision, which was announced Sunday, comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law Friday that criminalizes news coverage pertaining to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In particular, the law bans calling Russia's invasion an invasion, and some news organizations have cut back their operations to protect employees from potential prison sentences.
TikTok said it is reviewing how the law may apply to its platform.
“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 social media app said in a statement. “However, our highest priority is the safety of our employees and our users, and 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.”
On Friday, Facebook and Twitter were also blocked in Russia.
Social platforms have been hugely important in documenting — and memeing — the Russian invasion as well as the global response. Researchers have used TikTok videos and comments as open-source intelligence to reveal troop movements, and journalists in Russia have documented massive protests against the invasion. There has also been misinformation, as well as bleak jokes about "Vladdy Daddy" Putin and a whole lot of cringe.
TikTok has said it's battling the spread of misinformation by partnering with an independent fact-checking service. Whatever content “can’t be substantiated, will be ineligible for recommendation into your For You feed,” the company said in the statement.
“We've also evolved our methods in real-time to identify and combat harmful content, such as implementing additional measures to help detect and take action on livestreams that may broadcast unoriginal or misleading content,” the company continued. “We remain focused on preventing, detecting, and deterring influence operations on our platform and our systems help us identify, block, and remove inauthentic accounts, engagement, or other associated activities on TikTok.”
The platform said it will also "in the coming days" be labeling content that comes from state-controlled media accounts. The reach of Kremlin-backed media sources RT and Sputnik has come under fire since the Russian invasion. The European Union banned the outlets for spreading misinformation as part of its sanctions, and Russia cited Facebook's "discrimination" against the outlets as it blocked the site.