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Tech giants TikTok and Netflix suspend services in Russia over its ‘fake news’ laws

TikTok and Netflix have become the latest tech giants to suspend services in Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Social media company TikTok announced on Sunday it is suspending the posting of all video content from Russia in order to keep its employees safe and comply with the country’s new “fake news” regulations, while Netflix, which earlier this week said it was pausing future projects in the country, it has now suspended its service.

“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 Twitter message, adding that its in- app messaging service will not be affected.

“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.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Friday signed into law a Bill introducing jail terms of up to 15 years for publishing “fake news” about the Russian army.

Netflix said: “Given the circumstances on the ground, we have decided to suspend our service in Russia.” The streaming giant has about one million subscribers in the country.

It comes after Russia blocked the BBC’s World News channel on Sunday, prompting the corporation to issue instructions on how to get around the country’s ban on its reporting.

The Russian government has restricted independent and foreign news as part of an information blackout following its invasion of Ukraine, including blocking BBC websites and its world news channel from broadcasting in the country.

At lunchtime on Sunday BBC World News presenter Victoria Derbyshire told viewers: “BBC World News, the channel you are watching if you are outside the UK right now, and which is the BBC’s global television news channel, has just been taken off air in Russia .”

A spokesman said: ”We can confirm that since Saturday BBC World News has not been available in Russia.

‘Denied access to impartial news’

“We regret that our Russian audiences are being denied access to trusted and impartial news at a time when they need it most.”

The suspension of the corporation’s global channel followed a ban on the BBC website last week.

In response to the crackdown the BBC has issued instructions on how to use anonymizing browsers and mobile phone apps designed to circumvent censorship.

It encouraged people to use Tor, computer software which is designed to obscure the location and identifying details of people browsing the internet.

The software has a dedicated BBC site which users can access via mobile phone apps including the Tor Browser or Onion Browser, both of which can be downloaded from Apple or Google’s app stores.

Tor, originally developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory, has made headlines because of its use for illicit purposes such as drug trafficking on the “dark web”.

But it is also a valuable tool for people in countries which monitor and control online communications, allowing them to access censored sources of information.

The BBC originally launched its Tor service in 2019, including foreign-language services in Russian, Persian and Arabic. Countries including China, Iran and Vietnam have previously blocked access to the corporation’s journalism.

shortwave broadcasts

The BBC has also relaunched its shortwave radio service, used extensively during the Second World War and Cold War, in an effort to reach people trying to access news from inside Ukraine or Russia.

Shortwave broadcasts can travel long distances and be accessed from portable radios, making them ideal for wartime information. The corporation abandoned its shortwave channel in 2008 as listeners turned instead to satellite and digital sources, but it has relaunched it in response to the conflict.

On Friday BBC bosses said they were “temporarily suspending” the work of journalists in Russia amid a crackdown on free speech which has made it a criminal offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison to spread “fake” or “false” news about the war in Ukraine.

Tim Davie, the BBC’s director-general, said the legislation “appears to criminalize the process of independent journalism”.

He said the corporation’s Russian-language service would continue to operate from outside Russia.

US outlets CNN and CBS News said they would stop broadcasting in the country while other publications said they would remove journalists’ bylines to protect them.

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