TikTok Just Banned Russians From Uploading Videos

The decision comes just over a day after Putin signed Russia’s new “fake news” law, which carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison.
The screen of a smartphone shows the logos of the apps VKontakte (top l-r), Twitter, RT News, Facebook, Instagram (bottom l-r), Telegram and TikTok. (Photo by Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez / picture alliance via Getty Images)

TikTok has suspended its Russian users’ ability to upload new videos or livestream on the platform over fears the content may violate the Kremlin’s draconian new “fake news” law.

The drastic measure was announced by the video-sharing app on Sunday and comes just over a day after Vladimir Putin signed the new bill into law, which criminalizes sharing content that the Kremlin decides is “fake” information about its armed forces, with punishment of up to 15 years in prison. 


TikTok has been strongly criticized for its lack of action on the huge amount of disinformation about the war posted on its platform. The move to ban Russian users, however, wasn’t a measure to halt such content from being shared but rather a risk-avoidance measure in case the company or its users were held liable for content the Kremlin deemed illegal under the new law.

“In light of Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend live-streaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law,” TikTok wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Russia is one of TikTok’s largest markets, with almost 55 million users or one-third of the country, according to the company’s metrics published in January 2022. So the decision to cut off users there could impact a lot of creators, some of whom were earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from the app.

One Russian TikTok creator told VICE News Monday morning that in addition to not being able to post new videos, they couldn’t view content from users located outside the country?. Screenshots provided by the creator appeared to back up those claims.


TikTok did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.

The decision to cut off Russian users came just days after TikTok announced its first step towards tackling disinformation about Ukraine on the app, by applying labels to Russian state-backed media outlets like RT and Sputnik. 

This step, which other platforms like Twitter and Facebook took years ago, came after the company was forced to block RT’s and Sputnik’s accounts inside the EU after the bloc issued a mandate to all social media platforms.

On the other hand, Russia’s “fake news” law had an immediate chilling effect on media in the country. Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose editor Dmitry Muratov last year won a Nobel Peace Prize, said it would remove material on Russia's military actions in Ukraine from its website because of censorship.

Many international outlets also said they would stop broadcasting in Russia, including the BBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Bloomberg News, CNN, and CBS News.

Sophia Smith-Galer contributed to this report.

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