Popular short-form video app TikTok is blocking Russian users from posting video to the platform because of the country’s new law that threatens to severely punish the publication of “false information.”
On Friday, Russia passed a law making it illegal to publish “false information” about Russia’s military. Violators face potential fines, forced labor and up to 15 years in prison.
“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,” TikTok said in a statement Sunday. “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.”
TikTok, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, said that in-app messaging will not be affected.
“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 in the statement.
Separately, Netflix said it has suspended service in Russia in protest of the country’s attack on Ukraine, joining economic boycotts already enacted by many other countries. Internet companies that have suspended, demoted and/or demonetized Russian state-affiliated media include Meta’s Facebook, Spotify and YouTube.
TikTok previously had outlined steps it was taking in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. Those include expediting the rollout of its policy governing state media “to bring viewers context to evaluate the content they consume on our platform,” by applying labels to content from “some state-controlled media accounts.”
TikTok claimed it is “working aggressively” to help mitigate the spread of misinformation on the app. The company says it uses a combination of technology and people to detect and block such content in accordance with its Community Guidelines. In addition, according to TikTok, “We partner with independent fact-checking organizations to aid our efforts to assess the accuracy of content so violations can be removed. Out of an abundance of caution, content that is being fact checked, and reviewed content that can’t be substantiated, will be ineligible for recommendation into For You feeds.”
TikTok also said it contributing funds toward humanitarian aid, starting with a $1 million donation. “We will continue to be responsive to events as they unfold, take action on content or behavior that threatens the safety of our platform, and dedicate resources to protecting our community,” the company said.