Posted on March 3, 2022

Major Social Media Platforms Ban Russian State Media in Europe

Elizabeth Dwoskin et al., Washington Post, March 1, 2022

Major social media companies including YouTube, Facebook and TikTok moved to ban Russian state media outlets in Europe, blocking Moscow’s biggest megaphone for influencing public opinion about the war in Ukraine in a critical region on its borders.

The moves by the social media giants came after mounting pressure from the European Commission, the Ukrainian government, some U.S. politicians, and their own employees.

The actions are likely to provoke retaliation from Russia, which has already restricted social media services in response to previous measures the companies have taken to curtail the Kremlin’s ability to spread misinformation and propaganda about its invasion of Ukraine.

“Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, we’re blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately,” Google Europe said in a tweet. {snip}


State media outlets RT and Sputnik have relied on American social networks, as well as Chinese-owned TikTok, to gain massive followings and reach audiences outside Russia’s borders. RT’s Facebook channel has more than 7 million followers, though it’s not clear how many were located in the European Union. RT’s YouTube account has 4.65 million followers in English and 5.94 million in Spanish. RT and Sputnik also run prominent television channels and radio stations in several countries.


But the pressure on social media companies to use their power as gatekeepers mounted swiftly. First, the Ukrainian government asked the firms to ban the channels within its borders, and the companies complied. Then on Sunday, the E.U. banned the state media channels and began to send letters to tech giants asking for a ban. The companies fear European regulators because Europe intends to regulate social media companies with two sweeping laws next year. Therefore, the demands by Europe were likely to set up a confrontation where the companies were caught between two tough choices: Ban state media in the E.U. and face a full-scale block of their services in Russia, which are used by activists and everyday people to communicate during the crisis, or refuse to ban and incur the wrath of European regulators.