Big Tech restricts Russian state media channels ahead of a likely EU ban

Alphabet, Meta and ByteDance have already limited access to accounts run by Sputnik and Russia Today in the EU

YouTube said it would block certain Russian channels from monetising their videos, among other restrictions, owing to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Reuters

YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are restricting state-owned Russian media channels before a likely EU ban, aiming to curtail propaganda during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The EU announced a ban on Sunday, which countries are expected to sign off on Tuesday after a formal proposal.

In the meantime, YouTube owner Alphabet, Facebook owner Meta Platforms and TikTok owner ByteDance have already restricted access to accounts run by Sputnik and Russia Today in the EU.

“We have received requests from a number of governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state-controlled media,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, wrote in a tweet.

“Given the exceptional nature of the current situation, we will be restricting access to RT and Sputnik across the EU at this time. We will continue to work closely with governments on this issue.”

YouTube announced on Tuesday morning that it would also block videos on the site, after previously restricting ads on the content. The ban is effective immediately but the company wrote that “it’ll take time for our systems to fully ramp up”.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began last Thursday, has prompted a growing number of governments to ask large technology companies to reduce or restrict their services in Russia. Poland and the Baltic states asked Big Tech companies on Sunday to “take a stand” against Russia.

Companies will soon be forced to take down the content, after Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, said the EU’s ban on the state-backed media will include broadcasting or platforms sharing RT and Sputnik content.

Microsoft also said it would take steps to reduce users’ exposure to Russian propaganda, including on MSN.com.

“We are removing RT news apps from our Windows app store and further de-ranking these sites’ search results on Bing so that it will only return RT and Sputnik links when a user clearly intends to navigate to those pages,” the company said in a statement. The company will also be banning ads from RT and Sputnik.

Updated: March 01, 2022, 12:54 PM