TikTok said on Sunday that it would suspend live streaming and new content being uploaded from Russia, becoming the latest tech company to pull out of the country.
TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, said it was taking action as it reviewed Russia’s new law on “fake news”. The law appears to be aimed at media outlets that are not interested in the Kremlin’s line on the invasion of Ukraine.
“Our highest priority is the safety of our employees and users, and under Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, 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 in a statement.
Last week, TikTok joined Meta, Twitter and YouTube in banning Russian state-backed media in the European Union and labeling state-backed media in the rest of the world. Tech platforms have been caught in the middle of an information war over the invasion, with Ukrainian leaders and US and European officials calling for them to cut ties with Russia while Russia pressures companies to moderate their content.
Millions of people turned to TikTok for live updates and video clips of the fighting in Ukraine. The company had to deal with a series of videos, some of which purportedly show action on the ground but have not been verified. That has led to concerns that TikTok is spreading misinformation about the invasion.
According to a review by The New York Times, videos with the hashtag #Ukrainewar have reached nearly 500 million views on TikTok, with some of the most popular reaching close to a million likes. In contrast, the #Ukrainewar hashtag on Instagram has 125,000 posts and the most popular videos have been viewed tens of thousands of times.
Last week, TikTok said it was devoting more resources to monitoring misleading content about war.
Turning off live streaming and newly uploaded videos from Russia is difficult as it could prevent ordinary Russians from disseminating independent information. Some Russian journalists and censorship experts have warned that there will be negative consequences if technology platforms are blocked in Russia.