In late February, a war broke out between Russia and Ukraine. However, the war’s effects reach far beyond these two countries’ borders.
Since the war began just a few weeks ago, many major social media platforms and corporations (many of which are based in the United States) have decided to suspend usage and user access in Russia until further notice. These suspensions come alongside massive sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. government.
Read on to learn more about how various businesses and social media platforms are responding to the current situation in Russia and Ukraine. You’ll also get a look at the other side of the coin and will see how Russia is handling these changes, as well as how they affect consumers across the globe.
How U.S. Businesses Are Taking a Stand
In the last few weeks, several U.S. businesses have taken swift action in response to the war between Ukraine and Russia. The following are some of the most well-known examples:
Meta, the parent company of the massive social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, recently decided to temporarily suspend ads in Russia. This announcement came in a blog post published on Meta’s official website — the blog post is being continuously updated to provide real-time information on Meta’s responses to the war.
What does this suspension mean? First, ads that originated in Russia will not be run anywhere in the world. Second, ads that target Russian audiences will not be viewed by Russian Facebook users.
Meta has also decided to demote many posts related to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
On March 1, Meta announced that it would globally demote content from accounts and pages from Russian state-controlled media outlets. This demotion will make these posts harder to find across the Facebook and Instagram platforms.
Furthermore, Meta also announced on March 8 that Facebook and Instagram stories that contain link stickers pointing to Russian state-controlled media websites would receive a lower ranking in the Stories tray. They will also receive labels informing users that they lead to Russian state-controlled media websites.
Meta is not the only social media giant responding to the Russia-Ukraine war. Similar to Meta, Twitter also decided to pause all ads in Ukraine and Russia with the intention of ensuring that ads do not detract from the sharing of “critical public safety information.”
Twitter announced its plans as well to help those who are affected by the war. These plans included launching a giving campaign for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the country.
Twitter’s latest response is not the first example of the social media platform experiencing tensions with the Russian government. In fact, in 2019, Twitter went so far as to ban advertising from Russian state-controlled media altogether.
Along with social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, tech companies like Google have also taken strong stands against Russia in the last few weeks.
For example, in late February, Google’s spokesman, Michael Aciman, explained that the world’s largest search engine would be pausing Russian state-funded media’s ability to earn money through Google ad services. Aciman also said that the company was “actively monitoring new developments” and was willing to take additional steps if needed.
A week later, Google took things a step further and suspended all advertising in Russia. This mandate applied to Google-owned platforms, most notably YouTube.
In a statement, Google said that it was pausing ads completely “in light of the extraordinary circumstances.” These extraordinary circumstances presumably included the claim from Russian censor Roskomnadzor that YouTube was running campaigns in an attempt to “misinform the Russian audience.”
YouTube, specifically, has also taken more specific aim at Russia in the last few weeks.
In addition to preventing Russian state-media channels from earning money from ads, YouTube also limited recommendations to those channels. In response to requests from the Ukrainian government, YouTube blocked those channels in Ukraine completely.
On March 8, Apple announced that, until further notice, it would be suspending the function of its Search Ads product on the Russian App Store.
This decision was implemented in response to a statement from the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (or FAS) saying that Apple was abusing its dominant market position and forcing developers to use the Search Ads feature.
TikTok, a popular video-sharing social media platform, suspended services in Russia on March 6. A statement from TikTok explained that this suspension came in response to Russia’s “fake news law” (more on that in the coming section).
The suspension will prevent Russian users from posting new videos or live streams on the app. They also won’t be able to see videos shared from other parts of the world.
TikTok’s statement also says that the platform had “no choice” but to implement these suspensions. They will impact Russians’ ability to share and see new content. However, the suspensions will not affect their ability to see old content or use the app’s messaging service.
Last week, the White House also hosted 30 of the biggest creators on TikTok for a virtual briefing. These creators asked questions about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and offered suggestions for how the platform can combat misinformation about the war being spread by various users on TikTok.
What Is Russia’s Response?
Not surprisingly, the Russian government did not take kindly to major companies like Meta and Twitter’s ad pausing and other actions. Russia responded with several decisions of its own, including the following:
Fake News Law
In early March, Russia implemented a new “fake news” law. This law aims to put a stop to people sharing information in news sources that is considered contradictory to Russia’s narrative regarding the war with Ukraine. Those who violate this law face prison sentences of up to 15 years or a fine of up to 1.5 million rubles (approximately $14,000).
According to Vyacheslav Volodin, who is the speaker of the lower house of parliament in Russia, the intention of this law is to force “very grave punishment” on “those who lied and made statements discrediting [Russia’s] armed forces.” He added that the implementation of this law is to “protect [Russia’s] soldiers and officers” as well as to “protect the truth.”
Several news organizations had to reevaluate their approach in response to this law. Many decided to suspend operations in Russia altogether or limit the use of reporters’ bylines. Others decided to adhere to Russia’s regulations and are now referring to the war as a “special military operation” or a “peacekeeping mission.”
CNN announced that it would stop broadcasting in Russia. Meanwhile, the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) and Bloomberg News both decided to suspend journalists’ work in Russia.
Blocked Social Media Access
In addition to placing limits on other news sources, Russia has also blocked or restricted access to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook received a complete block — presumably in response to the removal of accounts for Russian news sources like Russia Today and Sputnik. Meanwhile, Twitter received significant access restrictions and slowdowns, which affect computer loading speeds and people’s ability to receive information through the social media platform.
Russia has also gone so far as to call Meta and Google “instigators of war,” citing this as a reason for the social media blocks and slowdowns. Oleg Gavrilov, the deputy head of the foreign ministry’s information and press department, went on to say that Meta and Google’s behavior was contributing to “hostile propaganda activities” being carried out on social media platforms.
How This Affects Consumers
Understandably, consumers in Russia, Ukraine, and the United States have all been impacted by the actions of the U.S.-based businesses listed above and by the actions of the Russian government.
In a statement, Nick Clegg, the president of global affairs at Meta, said that blocking access to Facebook and Instagram will prevent “millions of ordinary Russians” from receiving reliable information while also depriving them of access to friends and family and preventing them from “speaking out.”
As for the effects of the bans, blocks, and suspensions on social media users in the United States, those who are posting information related to the Russia-Ukraine war may notice that their posts are seen by fewer people. This is especially true if they’re sharing posts or links to sources that the social media platforms deem questionable.
At first, it might seem a bit strange to think about social media platforms (which are often used for rather trivial purposes) being affected by war.
However, when you think about how widespread these businesses are and how many people utilize them all over the world for a wide range of tasks, it makes sense that their owners, boards of directors, and employees would feel the need to respond to global conflicts in a specific way.
The war between Russia and Ukraine is ongoing, and the situation is changing dramatically day after day. Only time will tell how social media platforms and other corporations will continue to handle these challenges moving forward.