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Russia Announces Partial Bans on Facebook Amid Escalating Ukraine Conflict



Russia Announces Partial Bans on Facebook Amid Escalating Ukraine Conflict

With the conflict in Ukraine escalating by the hour, social media has become a key element in raising awareness, and connecting Russian and Ukranian citizens, along with the rest of the world, to real-time updates on the unfolding situation.

But that just became harder, at least for Russian users, with the Russian Government restricting access to Facebook, over claims that the platform restricted the accounts of four Russian media outlets.

As communicated by Russia’s communications and tech regulator:

On February 24th, Facebook restricted the official accounts of four Russian media outlets – the Zvezda TV channel, the RIA Novosti news agency, and the and Internet sites. Such actions in relation to Russian Internet resources and the media are prohibited by Federal Law. [We have] sent requests to the administration of Meta Platforms to remove the restrictions imposed by Facebook on Russian media, and explain the reason for their introduction. The owners of the social network ignored the requirements.”

Given this, Russia’s Service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Communications has opted to take measures to ‘partially restrict access’ to Facebook for Russian users.

In response, Meta acknowledged that it has been labeling misinformation from state media as such, which is likely the key impetus leading to the ban.

As Meta’s Nick Clegg notes, the situation is evolving quickly, and we’re once again seeing how social media now plays such an important role within such, and the dissemination of relevant information – and how the leaders in some regions are looking to limit the same, and control the narrative, by exerting pressure on the big social platforms.

Facebook has almost 70 million users in Russia, and 24 million in Ukraine, around half the total population of each country, so its reach is significant, as is its impact. And if anyone knows the potential of Facebook for influencing public opinion, it would be Russia, which has repeatedly sought to interfere with foreign democracies by sowing misinformation via the app.

As such, it’s little surprise to see Russia move to restrict Facebook access in an effort to control the public narrative, which it’s also sought to do during previous incidents, by threatening action and imposing laws to force social platforms to remove content at its request.

But it once again underlines the importance of social media as a connective tool, which is especially important in times of crisis. Misinformation is everywhere right now, along with otherwise-motivated groups posting false stories and reports in an effort to drive engagement.

Case in point, this video, which has gone viral on TikTok, doesn’t depict Russian soldiers air-dropping into Ukraine as the description suggests.

When users are incentivized to drive engagement, in order to get maximum reach for their content, some will do whatever it takes, and that can lead to a confusing, misleading state of affairs online which further stokes fear, division, and can even lead to civil disruption as a result of groups aligning with false causes that are seemingly validated by such posts.

It’s important for users to stay vigilant with such, and to cross-check all the reports they’re seeing. Trust in mainstream media has been in decline of late, largely for unjust reasons, but right now, in the midst of a crisis, it’s important to validate and confirm any reporting via mainstream sources and journalists, to ensure that there is at least some support for any claims.

We’re seeing, now, once again, the role that social media campaigns can play in shaping political narratives, and how that can drive public support, or distrust, which then impacts approaches. Ukrainian citizens are documenting the events as they unfold, while Russia is seeking to restrict such.

It’s important to note what’s being shared, and the motivations behind such, and to avoid re-circulating information that may be incorrect.

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TikTok Tests New Mini-Games with Users in Vietnam



TikTok Tests New Mini-Games with Users in Vietnam

Gaming is arguably the most influential element of online culture, and as such, it makes sense for TikTok to lean into gaming where it can, as it looks to maximize its appeal among younger audiences.

Already offering game streaming options, TikTok is now looking to take this to the next level, with the launch of its own, in-app mini-games to boost user engagement.

As reported by Reuters:

TikTok has been conducting tests so users can play games on its video-sharing app in Vietnam, part of plans for a major push into gaming, four people familiar with the matter said.”

The games would be simple, HTML5-based apps, which would be developed via third-party game developers and studios like Zynga Inc. – the kinds of games that were big on Facebook several years back, and have now been built into Messenger, Snapchat and various other apps.

Which TikTok, via parent company ByteDance, already has some experience in.

If you want to know the future of TikTok, look no further than Douyin, the Chinese version of the app, which has been in operation for longer than TikTok, and is used by 670 million Chinese.


Given this, most of the features that eventually merge across to TikTok have already been in operation for some time – which is also true of gaming, with games being available in Douyin since 2019.

ByteDance has been making a bigger push into gaming of late, as it works to expand its use case, and diversify its revenue streams. And with huge reach, it makes sense for ByteDance to try out games as another means to expand the revenue potential of TikTok, via in-game ads, sponsored games, and more.

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There’s no word on a global rollout plan for TikTok games, but it seems likely that the option will be coming sooner rather than later. At a guess, I would anticipate seeing games make it across to TikTok ahead of this year’s holiday season, enabling it to maximize engagement throughout the period.

That could open up a range of opportunities, both for brands and users, while also potentially boosting TikTok usage, and fueling its ongoing growth in western markets.

It’ll be interesting to see exactly how TikTok plans out the integration, and whether social sharing elements will be built into its games to enhance interaction.

Again, it’s a logical and potentially lucrative avenue for the app, and with games already available in Douyin, merging them into TikTok seems like an inevitable expansion, which could become a new trend of note.

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