The tit-for-tat between Western tech and media companies and Russia reached another level of escalation on Friday when Facebook, Twitter, several Western media outlets as well as the Apple and Google app stores became partially unavailable in Russia. This is according to reports by monitoring service GlobalCheck.
Among the news providers now unavailable in Russia were the BBC and Deutsche Welle Russian language websites as well as the Radio Free Europe Russian online presence, which is U.S.-funded. Independent Russian media was also affected as bans continued to be issued before and after the invasion of Ukraine by the country last week.
Russia had previously slowed the speed of Twitter in the country and announced measures against Facebook after it had made two Russian state-owned news providers unavailable in Europe and continued to label and fact-check state-run media in general. YouTube and TikTok also joined in the European ban of the two outlets, RT and Sputnik. Twitter has relied on similar fact-checking features while Google removed the two outlets in question from its app store and from the Google news feature. Apple meanwhile stopped the sale of its products in Russia.
Data from the Statista Global Consumer Survey shows how many Russians will be affected by bans of Western social media. In 2021, 37 percent of Russians said they used Facebook, while only 14 percent used Twitter. The Russian social network VKontakte remained the most popular in the country with 73 percent of Russians saying they were using it. However, YouTube and Instagram were also popular at 68 percent and 59 percent of Russians claiming to be users, respectively. Despite actions against Russia by the services and their parent companies, both services remained available as of March 4.
In the realm of traditional media, RT and Sputnik TV channels were also banned by the European Union. Shortly before their online ban by Russian authorities, the BBC had reactivated short wave radio in Russia and Ukraine, reviving a service that because of its long range is much harder to take down than traditional TV or FM radio and impossible to block like online news or social media.