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TikTok users in Russia can see only old Russian-made content

TikTok has blocked all non-Russian content in Russia but is allowing historical content uploaded by domestic accounts to stay online, including videos by state-backed media services.

The Chinese-owned video sharing app said on Sunday it had banned livestreaming and uploading of new content in Russia after the Kremlin criminalised the spreading of what it deems to be fake news about its invasion of Ukraine.

TikTok’s measures have extended to blocking all non-Russian content, meaning the only content Russian users can see is old videos uploaded by Russia-based accounts.

Russian access to internet content from inside and outside Russia has been severely reduced by the Ukraine invasion. Facebook and Twitter have had their services blocked by the Russian communications regulator after the platforms pulled content from state-media backed news providers across Europe. Twitter has launched a privacy-protected version of its site to bypass surveillance and censorship.

Tracking.exposed, an EU-based non-profit organisation that studies the profiling and tracking of internet users, described TikTok’s move as establishing a “splinternet” within a global social media platform. It said: “This is the first time that a global social media platform splits the content availability at such scale.”

According to tracking.exposed, which used Russian IP addresses to attempt to access non-Russian TikTok content, the accounts of the World Health Organization and the popular TikToker Charli D’Amelio – who has 137.6 million followers – are among those inaccessible in Russia.

On Sunday, TikTok said it did not want to put its Russian employees or users at risk of severe criminal penalties, as it described the service as a source of “relief and human connection during a time of war”. TikTok is the 10th most popular app in Russia.

The app is now applying labels to some state-controlled media accounts, including in Russia, with content on accounts for state-owned news providers such as Tass now carrying the label “Russia state-controlled media”.

www.theguardian.com

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