Netflix and TikTok suspended most of their services in Russia on Sunday as the government cracks down on what people and media outlets can say about Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Pulling the plug on online entertainment — and information — is likely to further isolate the country and its people after a growing number of multinational businesses have cut off Russia from vital financial services, technology and a variety of consumer products in response to Western economic sanctions and global outrage over the invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. credit card companies Visa, Mastercard and American Express all said over the weekend they would cut service in Russia. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, a leading supplier of both smartphones and computer chips, said it would halt product shipments to the country, joining other big tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Intel and Dell.
And two of the so-called Big Four accounting firms said Sunday they were cutting ties to the country. KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers both they would end their relationships with their Russia-based member firms, each of which employs thousands of people.
Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, called on U.S. technology companies to do more Sunday to hit back against Russia. He tweeted open letters asking Apple and Google to shut down their app stores in Russia and for Amazon and Microsoft to suspend their cloud computing services.
Providers of internet-based services and apps have been mostly reluctant to take actions that could deprive Russian citizens of social media services and other sources of information.
That changed Friday when Russian President Vladimir Putin intensified a crackdown on media outlets and individuals who fail to hew to the Kremlin line on the war, blocking Facebook and Twitter and signing into law a bill that criminalizes the intentional spreading of what Moscow deems to be “fake” reports.
Netflix didn’t specify a reason for suspending services Sunday except to say it reflected “circumstances on the ground.” The company had previously said it would refuse to air Russian state TV channels.