As the government pushes down on what people and media outlets can say about Russia’s war in Ukraine, Netflix and TikTok suspended most of their services in Russia on Sunday.
After a growing number of multinational businesses cut off Russia from vital financial services, technology, and a variety of consumer products in response to Western economic sanctions and global outrage over the invasion of Ukraine, cutting off online entertainment — and information — is likely to further isolate the country and its people.
Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, all of which are based in the United States, announced service cuts in Russia over the weekend.
Samsung Electronics, a major supplier of cellphones and computer chips in South Korea, has announced that it will stop shipping products to the country, following in the footsteps of Apple, Microsoft, Intel, and Dell.
On Sunday, two of the so-called Big Four accounting firms announced their exit from the country. Both KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers have declared the end of their agreements with their Russia-based member firms, which employ thousands of people.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s digital transformation minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, called on American technology businesses to do more to retaliate against Russia. He wrote open letters to Apple and Google, urging that their app stores in Russia be shut down, as well as Amazon and Microsoft’s cloud computing services.
Netflix didn’t give an explanation for the service outage on Sunday, other than to say it was due to “circumstances on the ground.” The corporation previously stated that it would not broadcast Russian state television networks.
Russian users of TikTok’s popular social media app will no longer be allowed to upload new videos or livestreams, and they will also be unable to see films posted from other countries.
“We have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service in light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law,” TikTok stated in a statement on Twitter, “while we assess the safety implications of this law.” “There will be no impact on our in-app messaging service.”
According to TikTok spokesperson Hilary McQuaide, the TikTok app in Russia is now in “view-only” mode, which means users can’t create or watch new videos or livestreams. They may still watch older videos, but not ones from outside the country, according to her.
“The safety of our staff is our first priority,” she said, adding that the video-sharing site, which is owned by China’s ByteDance, didn’t want its Russian employees or users to face harsh criminal penalties. Some of the demonstrators who took to the streets in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian towns to denounce the invasion of Ukraine used social media to spread their message.
The new “fake news” legislation, which was promptly passed by both chambers of Russia’s Kremlin-controlled parliament and approved by Putin, stipulates prison penalties of up to 15 years for individuals sharing material that contradicts the Russian government’s war narrative.
Several news organizations have also announced that they will take a break from reporting inside Russia to assess the situation. Russian authorities have fraudulently labeled stories of Russian military defeats or civilian casualties in Ukraine as “fake” news on numerous occasions. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is referred to as a “special military operation” rather than a war or an invasion by state media agencies.
The legislation allows for terms of up to three years in prison or fines for spreading false information about the military, but the maximum penalty is three years in prison.