WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia's invasion of Ukraine is forcing big tech companies to decide how to handle Russian state media that spread propaganda and misinformation.
Officials in the European Union say they're moving to ban the outlets, and Google announced Tuesday that it's blocking the YouTube channels of Russian state media in Europe.
Other U.S.-owned tech companies have offered more modest changes so far: limiting the Kremlin's reach, labeling more of its content, and prohibiting Russian state media from making money off ads.
On Tuesday, Google announced that it was blocking the YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik in Europe “effective immediately," but reminded everyone that "it’ll take time for our systems to fully ramp up."
Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, we’re blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately. It’ll take time for our systems to fully ramp up. Our teams continue to monitor the situation around the clock to take swift action.
— Google Europe (@googleeurope) March 1, 2022
China's TikTok said they were disabling Russia’s RT and Sputnik accounts in Europe, the Associated Press reported.
The changes are a careful balancing act meant to slow the Kremlin from pumping propaganda into social media feeds without angering Russian officials to the point that they block the platforms entirely.
On Monday, Twitter said it would begin adding warnings to tweets that link to websites affiliated with Russian state media.
"We’ve learned that labeling Tweets is another way we can add helpful context to conversations around some of the most critical issues," said the head of site integrity at Twitter, Yoel Roth.
On Friday, the Russian government announced that they had partially blocked Facebook because the social network had "restricted" four Russian media outlets' accounts.
In response, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, posted on Twitter that the company refused to comply with Russia's request "to stop fact-checking and labeling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations.”
On Monday, Facebook found that Russia had attempted to spread misinformation about Ukraine by tiring to undermine trust in the Ukrainian government.