Apple, Netflix and TikTok strike back at Russian state media content

Several high-profile Hollywood and Silicon Valley companies are distancing themselves from Russian government programs amid concerns about the spread of Russian propaganda and disinformation related to the invasion of Ukraine.

Apple, Netflix, TikTok and parent company Facebook Meta were the latest American media companies to respond to the crisis in Eastern Europe.

Registered in Russia as an audiovisual service in December, Netflix was expected to comply with a law requiring the streaming service to broadcast 20 Russian federal TV channels, including Channel One and programs from the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia. Moscow Times. Exit reported in Dec. 21 that the law will affect Netflix in March.

On Monday, Netflix said it would not follow this rule.

“Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” Netflix said in a statement.

The company has suspended all future projects and acquisitions in Russia, a source close to Netflix, who was not authorized to comment, said. The company has four Russian-language projects that are either in production or in post-production. The shooting of one of the projects, the detective drama series ZATO, was recently suspended, the source said.

Apple on Tuesday said it was suspending sales of all products in Russia and restricting Apple Pay and other services in the country. Outside of Russia, news outlets RT and Sputnik, reputedly controlled by the Russian government, are no longer available for download on the App Store. Apple said it has also disabled traffic incidents on Apple Maps in Ukraine.

“We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and support all the people who suffer as a result of violence,” Apple said in a statement. “We will continue to assess the situation and contact the relevant governments about the actions we are taking. We join all those who around the world are calling for peace.”

US business support for Ukraine comes at a time when public opinion against a Russian invasion remains strong and the Russian currency continues to depreciate against the dollar.

“This is a global condemnation of what Russia has done,” said Rob Enderle, chief analyst at consultancy Enderle Group. “Optics for active sales in a country now so widely hated will probably do more harm to their brand than sales will benefit them.”

Several other companies have also taken action against Russian-affiliated outlets.

Meta, the parent company of popular social networking apps Facebook and Instagram, is restricting access to Russian state media like RT in Ukraine and across the European Union.

RT, which is funded by the Russian Federation, launched its first international news channel in 2005 and is now available in more than 100 countries, according to its website. The media company claims to have nine TV channels and claims to “create news that has an advantage for viewers who want to ask more questions.”

“RT covers stories missed by the mainstream media, offers alternative perspectives on current events, and introduces an international audience to the Russian perspective on major world events,” the publication’s website says.

But politicians and industry observers have raised concerns about what RT fuels Russian propaganda.

“It is definitely the mouthpiece of the Russian government,” Katherine Stoner, a professor of political science at Stanford University and author of Russia Resurrected: Its Strength and Purpose in the New Global Order, told The Times last week.

Meta’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said the company is currently downgrading content published by state-owned Russian media “making it difficult to find them in other countries.” [the company’s] platforms”, and restricted access to RT and Sputnik in Ukraine and the European Union.

According to Clegg, the company’s priority “is to ensure that people can continue to use our applications and services safely and securely,” including in Russia. The company is already received a backlash from the Russian authorities for checking the facts made by the Russian state media, and blocked it is media from generating advertising revenue on its platform.

RT and Sputnik did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In a statement broadcast to CNN, RT Deputy Editor-in-Chief Anna Belkina spoke out against criticism from others of her publication.

“When it comes to the Russian voice or just a different point of view, it is not allowed to exist in the free media space,” Belkina said in a statement. cited by CNN.

Snap, the parent company of social media app Snapchat, said on Tuesday that it has stopped serving all ads in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and is “suspending advertising sales to all Russian and Belarusian organizations and complying with all sanctions against Russian companies and individuals.” ”

On Tuesday, TikTok confirmed that it had geographically blocked access to RT and Sputnik media accounts in the European Union.

Spotify closed its office in Russia and removed RT and Sputnik content in EU and other markets. The company declined to say how many people work there.

“Our team has reviewed thousands of pieces of content since the start of the war and has limited the ability to detect shows owned and operated by Russian state media,” Spotify said in a statement.

YouTube said it was also blocking RT and Sputnik-related channels across Europe “immediately” due to the war in Ukraine. YouTube parent company Google has confirmed that Russian state media will no longer be eligible to be on Google News and has blocked RT and Sputnik-related apps from the Google Play store in Europe. Google has also temporarily disabled some features of Google Maps in Ukraine, such as occupancy information, “to protect the safety of local communities and their citizens.”

On Tuesday, Roku said it would be removing RT from the Roku channel store.

On Tuesday, DirecTV said it would no longer offer RT in the US on DirecTV Satellite and U-Verse.

“In line with our previous agreement with RT America, we are accelerating our contract expiration dates this year and will no longer be offering their programs effective immediately,” DirecTV said in a statement.

But some critics say tech companies may take stronger action against Russian disinformation and warn that misleading content could emerge elsewhere.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, RT acknowledged that it was being blocked by tech companies and encouraged people to view its content on another platform, Odysee.

“We are alive and running on the Odysee free speech video platform, continuing to promote freedom not censorship, truth not narrative,” RT said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

Other entertainment companies are taking a stand by suspending distribution of their content from Russia.

Walt Disney Co., Universal Pictures and Sony have stated that suspend their theatrical releases in Russiaand Warner Bros. announced that he would not release his new film “Batman” in Russia. Paramount Pictures said it will also suspend distribution of upcoming films in Russia, including The Lost City and Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

Motion Picture Association. condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“On behalf of our member companies that lead the film, television and streaming industries, we express our strongest support for Ukraine’s vibrant creative community, which, like all people, deserve to live and work in the world,” reads the association statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation by working closely with our members and partners across the global creative sector.”

Times Staff Writer Meg James and Ryan Fonder contributed to this report.